Holding up a photo taken by China’s new Mars lander, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson warned Congress Wednesday that his agency faces increasingly stiff competition on the high frontier and that sustained funding for a new moon lander, infrastructure upgrades and other critical programs is vital for America’s space program.
NASA officials released a nearly five-year, $28 billion plan Monday to return astronauts to the surface of the moon before the end of 2024, but the agency’s administrator said the “aggressive” timeline set by the Trump administration last year hinges on Congress approving $3.2 billion in the next few months to kick-start development of new human-rated lunar landers.
House lawmakers this week proposed to fund NASA’s human-rated lunar lander development program at less than one-fifth of the level the Trump administration wanted, but NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Wednesday the House budget bill is just the “opening salvo” in an appropriations process that now goes to the Senate.
Amid questions from lawmakers about the cost of the Trump administration’s proposal to accelerate a human return to the moon’s surface to 2024, the chairman of the House subcommittee responsible for helping write NASA’s budget said this week he favors keeping to the space agency’s earlier schedule for a crewed lunar landing by 2028.
NASA hopes to have a new leader for the agency’s human spaceflight directorate by the end of the year to replace Bill Gerstenmaier, who held the post for nearly 14 years before his reassignment in July amid the Trump administration’s push to land humans on the moon by 2024, a NASA official said Wednesday.