The NASA plan, dubbed Artemis, is a multi-staged lunar programme involving manned and unmanned missions to the Moon. By 2021, NASA aims to launch its first mission without astronauts on a 280,000 mile trip from Earth. Just three years later, humans are expected to return to the Moon for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972.

Even more incredibly, NASA has vowed to put the first woman on the Moon for the first time since Neil Armstrong’s “one small step” in 1969.

On Monday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine reaffirmed the US space agency’s commitment to the Artemis programme.

He said: “With bipartisan support from Congress, our 21st-century push to the Moon is well within America’s reach.

“As we’ve solidified more of our exploration plans in recent months, we’ve continued to refine our budget and architecture.

“We’re going back to the Moon for scientific discovery, economic benefits, and inspiration for a new generation of explorers.

“As we build up a sustainable presence, we’re also building momentum toward those first human steps on the Red Planet.”

NASA has now shared an update on the Artemis programme, outlining its Phase 1 plans.

The ultimate goal is to have a sustained presence on the Moon by 2028 with an additional space station outpost in lunar orbit, dubbed the Lunar Gateway, which will serve as a stepping stone towards Mars.

Our 21st-century push to the Moon is well within America’s reach

Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator

The missions will be powered by the Space Launch System (SLS) – the world’s most powerful rocket once completed.

Once the rocket is cleared for flight, it will carry an Orion capsule on two flight tests around the Moon.

The first mission, Artemis I, is on track for a 2021 launch.

And the first crewed flight, Artemis II, will fly just two years later.

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Then, by 2024, astronauts will travel some 240,000 miles to reach the Moon’s shadowy south pole.

The south pole was selected as a landing target due to its abundance of frozen water – a crucial resource for any long-term surface colonisation efforts.

In April this year, NASA named the private companies that will construct lunar landers for this mission.

These include Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Dynetics.

Lisa Watson-Morgan of NASA’s Human Landing System programme said: “NASA has a proven track record for landing people and cargo on other planetary surfaces.

“It’s an amazing time to be with NASA partnering with US Industry and our focused goals of landing humans on the Moon by 2024.”

Work is also well underway on the Lunar Gateway, where small crews of two astronauts will be able to stay while their colleagues operate on the Moon.

The Gateway will also function autonomously and conduct science experiments when astronauts are not aboard.

Parts of the Gateway are being built in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Canadian Space Agency.

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