NASA has officially outlined its $ 28 billion (22 billion pounds) plan to return to the Moon by 2024.
As part of a program called Artemis, NASA will send a man and a woman to the surface of the moon on the first landing with humans since 1972.
But the agency’s schedule is contingent on Congress’s release of $ 3.2 billion to build a landing system.
The astronauts will travel in an Apollo-like capsule called Orion that will launch a powerful rocket called the SLS.
Speaking on Monday afternoon (US time), NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein said, “The $ 28 billion represents the costs associated with the next four years in the Artemis Lunar Landing Program. SLS funding, Orion funding, Human Landing System, of course, spacesuits – are included. All those things that are part of the Artemis program. “
But he explained, “The budget request before us in front of the House and Senate at the moment includes $ 3.2 billion for 2021 for the human landing system. It’s critical that we get $ 3.2 billion.”
The US House of Representatives has already passed a bill allocating $ 600 million for the moon lander. But NASA will need more money to fully develop the car.
“I want to be clear, we are exceptionally grateful to the House of Representatives because, in a bipartisan way, they decided to fund a significant human landing system – that’s what $ 600 million represents. And it is also true. We are asking for the full amount of $ 3.2 billion,” added Bridenstine. .
In July 2019, Mr Bridenstine told CNN That the first female astronaut to walk on the moon in 2024 will be someone “proven, someone who flew, someone who was already on the International Space Station”. He also said that he would be someone who was actually in the astronaut weapon.
At the time of this interview, there were 12 active astronauts. They have since been joined by five other NASA astronauts who graduated from training earlier this year. But it remains unclear whether they can meet the standards in time to fly their first landing mission in 2024.
Asked about the schedule for selecting crew members for the Artemis missions, the NASA chief said he hoped to select a team at least two years before the first mission.
However, he said, “I think it’s important that we start identifying the Artemis team early on … primarily because I think it will serve as a source of inspiration.”
The new document The plan’s first phase, which includes an unmanned test flight around the moon – called Artemis-1 – is set in the fall of 2021.
NASA Human Spaceflight chief Cathy Loders said the Artemis-1 system will last for about a month to test all important systems.
She said the test flight would reduce the risks of Artemis-2, which would repeat the flight around the moon with astronauts.
A new test has been added to this task – display of affinity operations. Shortly after Orion detached from the upper stage of the SLS rocket – known as the temporary cryogenic propulsion stage – the astronauts would manually pilot the spacecraft as they approached and back off stage.
This will evaluate the handling qualities of the Orion, as well as the performance of the spacecraft’s hardware and software.
Artemis-3 will become the first mission to send astronauts to the surface of the Moon since Apollo 17 about 48 years ago.
NASA has provided $ 967 million (£ 763 million) to several companies To work on designs for the landing craft that will take them there.
Later in the decade, the plan called for NASA to create a base for humans, called Base Artemis, that would include the infrastructure needed for long-term lunar exploration.
Scientists want to extract water ice from the south pole of the moon, because it can be used to make rocket fuel on the moon, at a cost less than the cost of carrying it from the ground.
Compared to Artemis, the Apollo program in the 1960s and 1970s cost over $ 250 billion in inflation-adjusted US dollars.
However, the $ 28 billion for this new plan does not include the money already spent developing the Orion spacecraft missile and Space Launch System (SLS).
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