Featured Image Source: NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is asking Congress for a $25.2 billion budget next year. Approximately half of the budget total would fund the space exploration programs that aim to take humans back to the moon, then to Mars. President Donald Trump issued a directive to land astronauts on the moon by the year 2024, this next lunar mission is known as the Artemis program. The administration estimates that overall NASA budgets will range from $25 billion to $29 billion from 2020 through fiscal year 2025. The Artemis mission will take the first woman and next man to land on the lunar surface. NASA got $22.6 billion from Congress for fiscal year 2020, the agency's request to increase funds next year is mainly due to fulfill the Artemis mission on time. If Congress approves NASA's budget request, it would be the first time the agency will direct funding in a similar way as the Apollo program that took men to the lunar surface in the 1960s.
"Once we get back to the Moon, as the President said, we're going to establish the foundation for an eventual mission to Mars. We are going Moon to Mars," says @VP today at @NASA_Langley about our #Artemis program: https://t.co/7lmuL5pcTX pic.twitter.com/XApfElXbBJ— NASA (@NASA) February 19, 2020
Under this budget plan about $12.37 billion, would be used to do what is needed to take NASA Astronauts to the moon. A lot of this funding would go to private American aerospace companies that are helping NASA get there. NASA started to support United States space industry in order to end their dependency of contracting Russian spacecraft services to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Among the rocket companies that NASA has been supporting under a Commercial Crew Services contract are SpaceX and Boeing. Around Spring this year, SpaceX will launch NASA Astronauts for the first time aboard their Crew Dragon spacecraft. It will be the first manned rocket launch to lift-off from American soil in nearly a decade.
NASA's new budget request to congress outlined $1.4 billion for the Orion spacecraft developed by Lockheed Martin which will be the craft used to launch astronauts to the moon; Also, $2.26 billion for Boeing's Space Launch System, the rocket that is currently under development to fulfill the Artemis mission. The NASA section of an Office of Management and Budget document outlining the administration's overall 2021 budget request stated:
"NASA's top-priority mission is to return American astronauts to the moon by 2024 and build a sustainable presence on the lunar surface as the first step on a journey that will take America to Mars. The budget redirects funds from lower-priority programs to fulfill the president’s promise to get Americans back to the moon."
The new documents also offer details about the timing of Artemis program, the first mission, would be an uncrewed flight to the moon by 2021. There is also a proposal to fund the development of competing crewed lunar lander systems of $3.37 billion. That would be available for different companies to submit competing bids. NASA announced this week, that they are scheduled to award the first crewed lunar lander contracts this year, sometime around March or April.
Its expected there to be four bids for NASA’s crew lunar lander program, which could include: SpaceX, Blue Origin with Lockheed Martin, and Boeing. SpaceX's bid to fly astronauts to the moon is yet to be confirmed by officials, but the company did submit a proposal bid to NASA for flying cargo to the lunar surface. Last year in October, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said that they aim to land their future Starship rocket "on the moon before 2022 with cargo and with people shortly thereafter." So, its quite probable that SpaceX will submit a bid to NASA once Starship is in operation. SpaceX’s experience over the past decade has demonstrated their Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft are reliable to perform frequent flights to space, it could make them the front-runner to fulfill NASA moon plans.
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.