NASA needs anywhere from $20 billion (£16 billion) to $30 billion (£24 billion) on top of the space agency’s current budget to land humans on the moon by 2024, according to a new interview with the NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.
“Think of it as a short term investment to have a sustainable programme at the moon where we’re ultimately keeping our eyes on Mars,” Bridenstine told CNN.
The future moon landing mission, dubbed Artemis after the Greek goddess whose brother was Apollo, has already stirred a minor controversy after US President Donald Trump flip flopped, first saying back in May that he wanted to send astronauts back to the moon, then tweeting earlier this month that it was a waste of time.
“NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon — We did that 50 years ago. They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part),” President Trump tweeted on 7 June.
But Bridenstine seems undaunted by the mixed messages, nimbly trying to make it sound like President Trump’s flip flop simply makes sense in the broader context.
“How do we learn to live and work on another world, namely the moon, and then go on to Mars, and do it in a way that when this is complete, the American people can have a programme that they can be proud of long term?” Bridenstine told CNN on Thursday.
The current NASA space budget is already about $20 billion (£16 billion) annually and any budget increase would need to go through Congress. Bridenstine, who was previously a Republican US House Representative in the state of Oklahoma, has repeatedly said that Congress can find the money somewhere. The Trump regime has already submitted a request for an additional $1.6 billion (£1.3 billion) for NASA’s budget for the next fiscal year.
Trump’s budget butchers are reportedly looking at getting that $1.6 billion from the Pell Grants programme, which helps low income Americans attend university. But that funding plan isn’t sitting well with most Democrats.
“Last night, the White House proposed slashing Pell grant funding by nearly $3.9 billion,” US Senator Kamala Harris tweeted on 14 May. “More than 8 million low-income college kids rely on this. We already have students forgoing meals & sleeping in cars because they can’t afford the rising costs of college. This is backwards.”
But without the extra NASA funding, wherever it comes from, any future moon landing would be likely pushed to 2028. And that’s probably going to be a problem for President Trump, because it's hard to imagine that he really cares about going to space more than the adulation he’d receive if it happened during his presidency.
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