A Chinese communications satellite carrying a Dutch radio astronomy instrument launched last month is expected to maneuver into position around a gravitationally-neutral point beyond the moon in the coming days, ready to relay telemetry and data between Earth and the Chang’e 4 lander set to attempt the first landing on lunar far side late this year.
The White House’s $19.9 billion NASA budget outline released Monday would continue development of NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule and begin the deployment of a mini-space station around the moon as soon as 2022, but the proposal would cancel WFIRST, a flagship-class astronomy mission planned for launch in the mid-2020s.
In a brief White House ceremony Monday, President Trump formally directed NASA to set its sights on sending astronauts back to the moon followed by eventual flights to Mars as part of a new national space policy intended to make sure America “once again leads and inspires all of humanity” on the high frontier.
Vice President Mike Pence, chairing a revived National Space Council, said Thursday the United States will once again send astronauts to the moon, using Earth’s satellite as a critical stepping stone for eventual flights to Mars, and vowing to beef up national security space assets to counter rapidly escalating threats from adversaries.
SpaceX plans to begin construction of a new rocket and spacecraft next year that could lead to human landings on Mars as early as 2024, scaling up technologies currently being perfected with the company’s Falcon 9 family of boosters to ensure reliability, reusability and, as a result, realistically low costs, founder Elon Musk said Friday.