NASA unveiled on Monday the latest plan to return astronauts to the moon in 2024 and estimated the cost of meeting that deadline to be $ 28 billion.
Congress, which faces elections on November 3, will have to sign the financing of a project that was set by President Donald Trump as a top priority. The $ 28 billion would cover the 2021-25 budget.
In a telephone meeting with journalists on Monday about the Artemis mission to return humans to the moon, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine noted that “political risks” are often the biggest threat to NASA’s work, especially before such a crucial election .
Barack Obama canceled plans for a manned mission to Mars after his predecessor spent billions of dollars on the project.
If Congress approves the first installment of 3.2 billion by Christmas, “we are still on the way to land on the moon in 2024,” said Bridenstine.
“To be clear, we are going to the South Pole,” he said, discarding Apollo landings on the Moon’s equator between 1969 and 1972. “There is no discussion of anything else.”
Three different projects are in competition to build the lunar probe that will take two astronauts – one of them a woman.
The first is being developed by Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, in partnership with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. The other two projects are carried out by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Dynetics.
The first flight, Artemis I, scheduled for November 2021, will be unmanned: the new giant SLS rocket, currently undergoing testing, will take off for the first time with the Orion capsule.
Artemis II, in 2023, will take astronauts around the Moon, but it will not land.
Finally, Artemis III will be the equivalent of Apollo 11 in 1969, but the stay on the Moon will last longer – for a week – and will include two to five “extra-vehicular activities”.
“The science that we would do is really very different from everything we’ve done before,” said Bridenstine. “We have to remember that, during the Apollo era, we thought that the moon was completely dry. Now we know that there is a lot of water ice and we know that it is at the South Pole. ”
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