As NASA marked the 50th anniversary of the historic firstMoon landing, the US space agency is preparing to take its next giant leap withthe ambitious Artemis programme that could see the "first woman and thenext man" walk on the lunar surface.
Artemis is named after the twin sister of Apollo.
NASA said the mission "encompasses all of our effortsto return humans to the Moon — which will prepare us and propel us on toMars."
The programme to return astronauts to the lunar surface isplanned to launch by 2024, according to the US space agency.
"Through the Artemis programme, we will see the firstwoman and the next man walk on the surface of the Moon. As the 'torch bringer,'literally and figuratively, Artemis will light our way to Mars," the USspace agency said in a statement.
With the mission, NASA plans to explore regions of the Moonnever visited before, unlock mysteries of the universe and test the technologythat will extend the bounds of humanity farther into the Solar System.
"We go now to the Moon, not as a destination, but as aproving ground for all the technology, science, and human exploration effortsthat will be critical for missions to Mars.
"On the lunar surface we will pursue water ice andother natural resources that will further enable deep space travel. From theMoon, humanity will take the next giant leap to Mars," NASA said.