U.S. senators gathered on Wednesday, July 17, in Washington to consider obstacles, as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Chief Jim Bridenstine spelled out some of the challenges facing its Artemis moon program.
Bridenstine started by mentioning NASA’s achievements. “We want to continue doing these stunning achievements and go further and explore more. And that’s what this new program is all about we call it Artemis,” said Bridenstine.
Then he introduced the return to the moon program. “This time, under the Artemis program, when we go forward to the moon sustainably we go with a very diverse highly qualified astronaut corps that includes women,” said Bridenstine.
Bridenstine said the plan is to do it “entirely differently” and “to go sustainably.” And NASA’s goal is to have entire access of the moon so that they “don’t miss another stunning discovery like water ice, which we missed for almost 40 years,” said Bridenstine.
During the hearing, the NASA administrator mentioned hurdles that NASA would face in landing astronauts, including the first female astronaut on the moon.
Bridenstine said that the Artemis moon expedition using latest technology would be a stepping-stone for NASA’s Mars mission in the future.
NASA’s ultimate goal is “learn to live and work on another world using the resources of that world.”
“This is the proving ground,” and that reflects NASA’s long-term vision, said Bridenstine.
Present at the hearing were various senators who had the opportunity to ask questions.
In March this year, Vice President Mike Pence announced a deadline for astronauts to land at the moon’s south pole by 2024.
However, the plan to meet a new Fall 2020 deadline to test launch a mega-rocket designed to propel astronauts to the moon and beyond had NASA staffs scrambling to work round the clock at a rocket factory.
Bridenstine mentioned the need “to set very realistic milestones” and that one of NASA’s past challenges was setting realistic budgets and schedules. “We need to get better at that,” said Bridenstine.
Another challenge for NASA is the need to design and develop a moon lander. “The United States of America has not had a moon lander since 1972—the last time we landed on the surface of the moon,” said Bridenstine.
It was noted at the hearing that NASA faced another hurdle in not developing a detailed budget for its space program beyond 2020.
As lawmakers contend with the budget for the Artemis program, NASA estimates that the Artemis mission will cost $20 to $30 billion over the next five years to land astronauts on the moon again.