NASA wants a big budget increase for its Moon plans. Is Congress biting?
The odds of NASA sending humans back to the Moon by 2024 are long—not zero, but pretty close.
Probably the biggest near-term impediment the space agency faces is funding. Specifically, NASA requires an additional $3.2 billion in fiscal year 2021 to allow contractors to begin constructing one or more landers to take astronauts down to the Moon's surface from a high lunar orbit. This is a 12 percent increase to NASA's budget overall.
The 2021 fiscal year begins in a week, on October 1. The US Congress recently passed a "continuing resolution" that will keep the government funded through December 11. By that time, after the 2020 election, it is hoped that the House and Senate can agree on a budget that would fund priorities for the remainder of the fiscal year.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said this week that funding the Artemis Moon Program before the end of this year would be workable. "If we can have that done before Christmas, we're still on track for a 2024 Moon landing," he said in a call with reporters.
The real question is whether Congress, if it can agree on a fiscal year 2021 budget in this sharp partisan era, is so inclined to support funding for the lander. This is a brand-new program that will eventually require many billions of dollars to reach fruition. In deliberations earlier this year, the US House provided only $600 million, or less than one-fifth of the budget NASA said its needs for the coming ...
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