According to a NASA official, humans will be able to live and work on the Moon by 2030.
“We’re going to send people down to the surface, and they’ll be living on that surface and performing science,” Howard Hu, NASA’s Orion lunar mission program manager, told the BBC on Sunday.
NASA’s powerful new Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket successfully launched last week, sending the Orion spacecraft on its way to the Moon.
The launch, which had been repeatedly postponed, launched NASA’s Artemis missions, marking the first major step toward reintroducing humans to the Moon in nearly 50 years.
Orion is uncrewed this time around, as it aims to test its ability to bring a capsule to the Moon and back. But next time it is expected to take astronauts with it as it circles the celestial body.
If all goes well, the same spacecraft could then be used to put humans on the Moon’s surface, for the first time since 1972, including the first female astronaut.
The current plan is for the crew to land near the Moon’s south pole, where they will spend about a week looking for signs of water. If the precious liquid is found, it could be used to help fuel rockets on their way to Mars.
This would mean permanent human settlements would need to be built to support mining and scientific activities.
“It’s the first step we’re taking to long-term deep space exploration, for not just the United States but for the world,” Hu told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg.
Orion was due to fly by the Moon [on Monday] around 7:44 am ET (12:44 pm UTC). You can watch NASA’s live coverage here
This article was originally published by Business Insider.