Chances are, the first human who will set foot on the Red Planet will be a woman. At least, if NASA has anything to say about it.
Women Off To Mars, The Moon
During an interview on the radio show Science Friday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine revealed that the agency is ensuring that there will be "a broad and diverse set of talent" in its future missions, specifically on manned missions to Mars and the moon.
While a total of 12 men have already been on the moon, not a single woman have ever marked this milestone.
When asked about the potential of a woman making it to the moon, Bridenstine answered "absolutely."
"In fact, it's likely to be a woman, the first next person on the moon," the NASA head continued. "It's also true that the first person on Mars is likely to be a woman."
First Ever All-Female Spacewalk Also Coming Up
Another significant milestone that's coming up is the first all-woman spacewalk in history set for March 29.
According to a report from Space, Anna McClain and Christina Koch will be working on upgrades outside the International Space Station. Women will also head Mission Control with lead flight director Mary Lawrence overseeing the crew and Jackie Kagey serving as lead spacewalk officer.
The spacewalk wasn't initially planned as an all-woman event. However, NASA's Stephanie Schierholz said that it was just good fortune that it worked out that way, especially that it falls within the Women's History Month.
NASA's Sights Are Set On Mars
Out of all the planets in the solar system, Mars displays the greatest potential to sustain life. Thus, NASA is making it a priority to explore the Red Planet and learn more about its potential with the agency's Mars Exploration Program.
Part of the program is the Mars 2020 rover mission, which will look for signs of habitable conditions in the planet's history as well as signs of past microbial life. The rover will also collect samples of significant rocks and soils, placing them in a cache on the planet's surface.
The administration's budget request for NASA's fiscal year of 2020 was even dubbed "Moon to Mars." It includes funds for a Mars sample return mission, which is expected to retrieve the samples collected by the 2020 rover.
"The moon is the proving ground; Mars is the horizon goal," Bridenstine explained.