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.
The Trump administration is requesting $25.2 billion for NASA in fiscal 2021, a 12 percent increase that includes $3.3 billion to kickstart development of a human-rated lander for the Artemis moon program. Nearly half of the budget request, $12.3 billion, is devoted to new and ongoing projects focused on the return to the moon and eventual flights to Mars.
Speaking with Spaceflight Now on the sidelines of the International Astronautical Congress this week, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine offered his assessment on the status of a budget battle to secure funding for the agency’s Artemis program, which seeks to achieve the next human landing on the moon by the end of 2024.
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.
Douglas Loverro, a veteran manager with broad experience in national security space operations, has been selected by NASA to lead the agency’s human space flight programs. He takes over at a critical moment as the agency assesses the readiness of new commercial crew ships amid a full-court press to land astronauts on the moon in 2024.