Humans to live and work on moon by 2030: NASA
During its 25 day journey, the Artemis 1 spacecraft will fly for a total of 1.3 million miles.
A NASA official told BBC News on Sunday that astronauts are set to live and work on the moon before the end of the next decade.
The head of NASA's Orion lunar spacecraft program, Howard Hu, told BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg program that humans will be able to live on the moon with habitats and rovers to support their activities but for specific "durations", and this will be achieved before the end of 2030.
"Certainly, in this decade, we are going to have people living for durations, depending on how long we will be on the surface. They will have habitats, they will have rovers on the ground," he said.
"We are going to be sending people down to the surface, and they are going to be living on that surface and doing science," he added.
NASA selected Howard Hu as the Orion Program manager in February this year.
The program is currently based at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
He spoke on Sunday as the 98-meter (322ft) Artemis rocket is on its way toward the moon on its first uncrewed mission.
The spacecraft was launched on Wednesday from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and it carries three fully suited mannequins, which will register the stresses and strains of the Artemis 1 mission.
It is currently located about 83,000 miles (134,000km) from the moon.
"It’s the first step we’re taking to long-term deep-space exploration, for not just the United States but for the world. I think this is a historic day for Nasa, but it’s also a historic day for all the people who love human space flight and deep-space exploration," Hu said.
"We are going back to the moon. We’re working towards a sustainable programme, and this is the vehicle that will carry the people that will land us back on the moon again," he added.
During its 25-day journey, the spacecraft will fly for a total of 1.3 million miles.
It will first head to the moon within 60 miles of its surface, then head for another 40,000 miles before returning back to Earth.
The rocket is scheduled to return on December 11 and will be landing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego.
If this mission succeeds, it will pave the way for further missions to unfold, namely Artemis 2 and 3 flights, both of which would send humans around the moon and back.
The Artemis 3 mission, which is scheduled to be launched in 2026, is intended to return astronauts to the surface of the moon.
The last time this happened was in December 1972 with the Apollo 17 mission.
Artemis 3 will be the first mission to make a woman land on the moon, with a subsequent visit landing the first person of color on the lunar surface.
The Artemis programme involves the construction of a Lunar Gateway, a space station that will be made habitable for astronauts.
“Moving forward is really to Mars,” Hu told the BBC. “That is a bigger stepping stone, a two-year journey, so it’s going to be really important to learn beyond our Earth orbit.”
This announcement comes in light of China's recent developments in the space industry, as it announced earlier in July this year that its Wentian space lab was nearing completion.
On September 8, China accused Washington of seeking to militarize outer space after the Pentagon issued a new policy that makes space a "priority domain of national military power."
“For a long time, the US has openly defined space as a war-fighting domain. It has built the US Space Force and Space Command, developed and deployed space-based offensive weapons, conducted offensive and defensive military exercises and technology tests, and intensified military cooperation with its allies,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said during a briefing, stressing that “this has heightened the risks of military miscalculation and conflict.”