Meet the women of NASA's Artemis Program working to take us back to the moon

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The countdown is on!

NASA's Artemis Program hopes to put the first woman and the next man on the moon in just three years.

"You honestly look at the moon a little bit differently now," said NASA astronaut Nicole Mann.

Mann is part of a team of astronauts training to land on the moon in 2024.

It's been 49 years since the last moon landing.

"When we went in the past, we were there to collect for a short term," Mann said. "This time, we are going to have sustained operations on the lunar surface."

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And as NASA's missions have changed, so have the people who make up the organization. According to a 2017 report by NASA, women accounted for 34% of the total NASA workforce, but only 16% of senior level and senior scientific and professional positions.

And Mission Control was a facility first built without women's restrooms.

"It was maybe a year ago, I was working a shift at Mission Control, and for the first time in the history of my career there was a line at the women's restroom," Flight Director Pooja Jesrani said.

As a flight director, Jesrani oversees mission planning and real-time flight operations.

"There's only been less than 100 flight directors in NASA's history and I was the 15th female and I think the second female of color," she said. "The more and more people we have breaking that glass ceiling, the more and more examples we have for our younger generation. I'm sort of waiting for the day that it's no longer remarkable that I'm a South Asian woman as a flight director."

As women like Jesrani and Mann blaze a trail into space, they're making way for a lot of other girls dreaming of the next frontier.

"There are no limits to what they can do," said Mann. "They're going to have to work hard, that's for sure. They're going to have to study and stay in school. But, if they set those goals and they have those ambitions, then they can achieve those and they're able to look out and see many examples of people who have done just that exact thing."

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