When NASA sends humans to the moon for the first time in more than half a century, one lucky astronaut will go down in history for becoming the first woman on the moon. Then it won't be long before we see the first woman on Mars, and she just might beat the first man there, according to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
"We could very well see the first person on Mars be a woman," Bridenstine told reporters on Friday (Oct. 18) during a news conference about the first all-woman spacewalk. "I think that could very well be a milestone," he added.
NASA currently has no concrete plans for landing humans on Mars — the moon is the agency's first priority — but Bridenstine has said that the first crewed Mars landing could happen sometime in the 2030s. Meanwhile, the private spaceflight company SpaceX is working on its Starship Mars-colonizing rocket, which could help NASA send those astronaut pioneers to the Red Planet.
Related: Women in Space: A Gallery of Firsts
"If my 11-year-old daughter has her way, we'll have a woman on Mars in the not-too-distant future," Bridenstine said, adding that whoever ends up going to Mars is probably too young to have already been selected to join NASA's astronaut corps at this time. However, the soon-to-be first woman on the moon will likely be selected from NASA's current pool of active astronauts.
NASA has not yet announced who will be the first woman on the moon, but whoever she may be, she's scheduled to land in 2024. That moon landing mission is part of NASA's Artemis program, which is the agency's precursor to establishing a permanent human presence on and around the moon — something that may help pave the way to Mars.
- Men, Women … and Mars: How Gender Diversity Is Key for Success on the Red Planet
- Will NASA's Rush to Land Astronauts on the Moon Get Us to Mars Any Faster?
- Female Figure on Mars Just a Rock
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Hanneke Weitering is an editor at Liv Science's sister site Space.com with 10 years of experience in science journalism. She has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy.