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Star Wars: The Force Awakens star Daisy Ridley paid tribute to Nasas first female launch director, Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, in a video published on 4 May. Ridley described Nasas female employees as heroic and said they continually inspire girls to enter the space programme.

Spaceflight engineer Blackwell-Thompson will be the first woman to oversee a Nasa lift-off and launch, and will also be the launch director for the Space Launch System, a rocket designed to carry astronauts into deep space and potentially Mars.

Nasa is developing the capabilities needed to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s – goals outlined in the bipartisan Nasa Authorization Act of 2010 and in the US National Space Policy, also issued in 2010.

Nasas powerful SLS rocket will enable these proving ground missions to test new capabilities. Human missions to Mars will rely on Orion and an evolved version of SLS that will be the most powerful launch vehicle ever flown.

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