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NASA wants bigger budget increase for lunar projects. Is Congress biting?

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Zoom in / NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein says competition is good for the Artemis Moon program.

The oddity of NASA sending humans back to the moon by 2024 Is longNot zero, but very close.

The biggest hurdle facing the space agency is funding. In particular, NASA will need an additional $ 3.2 billion in fiscal year 2021 to allow contractors to build one or more landers to carry astronauts from high lunar orbit to the lunar surface. This is a 12 percent increase in NASA’s budget.

The 2021 financial year will begin in a week on October 1st. The US Congress recently passed a “continuous resolution”. It will provide financial assistance to the government until December 11. By then, after the 2020 election, the House and Senate hope to be able to approve a budget that will finance the remaining priorities for the fiscal year.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein said this week that he would be funding the Artemis Moon program before the end of this year. “If we can do this before Christmas, we are still on track for the 2024 lunar landing,” he told reporters.

The real question is whether Congress can agree to the budget for the 2021 fiscal year in this partisan era, and whether it is so inclined to support landlord funding. This is a new program that will cost billions of dollars to achieve. In talks earlier this year, NASA said the US $ 600s provided only $ 600 million, or less than one-fifth of the budget needed for next year.

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So says the Senate

Wednesday gave the Senate its first opportunity to publicly assess whether it will further support the Artemis program and its aggressive 2024 goal.

In his opening remarks, Jerry Moran, Republican of Kansas, chair of the Senate subcommittee overseeing NASA’s budget, had kind words to say about Artemis. NASA’s request for a larger budget came in the wake of the financial crisis caused by an epidemic.

“Our world has changed significantly since the initial release of the budget, and as we move forward with Artemis I would like to discuss how NASA adapts to our new and unprecedented atmosphere,” Moran said.

The ranking Democratic member of the committee is even less supportive. Jean Shaheen of New Hampshire commented that NASA’s proposed budget has again cut funding for STEM education and that the Nancy Grace does not support the Roman space telescope. “We know NASA needs more than a moonshot,” she reassured Brendanstein. Shaheen described the 12 per cent budget increase as “generous”.

Later in a Q&A session, Moran asked Bridenstein if it would be more practical for NASA to quickly select a contractor to build the lander so the agency could focus its resources.

Bridenstein stepped back, pointing out the value of the match. The space agency earlier this year Three teams were selectedBlue Origin, Dynamics, and SpaceX by have developed lander instructions to tell NASA how much government funding is needed to complete the projects by 2024. Group of three landing teams in February.

One, two, or three?

In the coming months in the aerospace community, one or more Lander teams will be stepping down for all funding this February, announcing that other teams will not be able to meet the technical challenge.

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It seems that Bridenstein is committed to moving forward with two or more teams. “I’m worried about going to one,” he said. “When you eliminate competition, you end up with programs that you inevitably drag out and cost more.” When at least two providers compete, NASA will end up in a “cycle of virtue” where teams will invest their own money and move forward as hard as they can.

He cited the Commercial Crew Program, a model for recent success, in which SpaceX and Boeing competed to fly astronauts to the International Space Station. SpaceX won the competition and NASA returned it in 2014 under a “fixed price” contract. Having two rivals has prompted companies to move forward despite technical challenges, Bridenstein said.

When they consider whether Artemis should be funded, legislators can get a few hard numbers to consider for the program. In an “Artemis Plan” Document By 2024, NASA estimates the cost of landing on the moon for the first time: $ 27.9 billion. .1 16.1 billion will go to the cost of developing an “initial” human landing system. These are the funding requirements for the 2025 fiscal year.

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