Vice President Mike Pence today announced at the fifth National Space Council meeting that the Trump Administration has committed to sending people to the moon by 2024, four years earlier than NASA's previous 2028 target.  Pence, speaking at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, noted that the government would achieve this goal "by all means". He urged NASA to adopt new guidelines, arguing that the space agency must adopt "a new way of thinking." It begins by setting bold goals and staying on schedule. "To accomplish this, he said the government may be considering giving up some of the current NASA counterparts who are developing new vehicles to launch people into space and using commercially developed missiles instead. "If commercial missiles are the only way to bring American astronauts to the moon over the next five years, then these will be commercial missiles," Pence said. "Urgency must be our watchword."
However, Pence made some clear recommendations and changes that would help accelerate NASA's return, aside from potential missile changes and contractors. "It was a rhetoric about" by any means possible "and" we provide the resources needed "and" leadership is important, "says John Logsdon, space policy expert at George Washington University, opposite The Verge . , "I mean, those are all good words. But the devil is in the detail.
The government was very aware that since the beginning of the last century it wants to bring people to the moon Trump Presidency In December In 2017, Trump signed its first space policy directive, in which NASA sent people back to the moon. However, NASA was relatively indeterminate in its timeline for implementing this policy. Recently, in 2028, the agency had invented the placeholder date for the first people who landed on the moon, and now the government expresses its dissatisfaction with this timeline. "Ladies and gentlemen, that's just not good enough," said Pence in his speech.
The space agency's strategy of returning to the lunar surface is based on the construction of a space station orbiting the Moon, the so-called Gateway. Such a platform would serve as a way station for astronauts to get to and from the lunar surface. In addition, NASA focused on the development of a new monster rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS), with which a team capsule called Orion should be launched into space. The SLS would not only send people to the gateway, it would also serve to deliver cargo and bring new modules to the Moon Space Station. And recently, NASA has asked retailers to create designs for lander that could transport people from the gate to the moon.
NASA is doing so, however, do not plan to begin building the gateway until 2022, and does not intend to see the first human landlords on the moon until midway through to test the 2020s. In addition, the SLS has suffered a series of delays and cost overruns that jeopardize the current time without acceleration. The rocket was originally scheduled to launch in 2017, sending the Orion capsule on a three-week voyage around the moon. The debut flight of the rocket has since been pushed back to June 2020. Recently, NASA officials admitted that the 2020 date is likely to go until 2021, a move that is apparently upsetting government officials. The delay prompted NASA to consider alternatives for Orion's launch in 2020, including the use of commercially available rockets such as Falcon Heavy from SpaceX or Delta IV Heavy from ULA instead of the SLS.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told Pence to comply with the ambitious deadline of 2024 and said that NASA had the SLS and "accelerate their agenda". Instead of using commercial missiles, Bridenstine said the SLS will be ready for the current launch date. "I am confident that we can reach the first launch for SLS in 2020 and actually fly the crew capsule around the moon," said Bridenstine, though he was not fully aware of the changes that would prevent the delay until 2021 The Verge that the company wants to deliver the core of the SLS missile this year and that it has been able to accelerate development through a new plan that allows the company to work on different sections simultaneously Time while parts of the rocket are put together.
"Boeing and NASA have implemented changes in processes and technologies to accelerate production without sacrificing safety or quality, and we remain on schedule to bring the first SLS core to the end of this year NASA to deliver, "Boeing said in a statement. Boeing, however, found that it had to struggle with shallow budgets.
If the SLS remains an integral part of NASA's space exploration plans, that means changing the Agency's current strategy , However, no concrete evidence was given. Pence made it clear that NASA needed a greater sense of urgency and cultural change, but he did not give any guarantees for more money from the administration. "For me, it was a great speech without teeth," says Laura Forczyk, aerospace consultant and owner of the space research and consulting firm Astralytical, The Verge . "It was another big promise."
Indeed, this speech comes at an awkward time, as the president's recent demand from the budget envisages significantly cutting NASA's funding, including budgets for SLS and Orion. NASA officials even admitted that after the budget was released, more resources would not be enough to accelerate development. "It's the primary goal of this budget … to get started as fast as technically possible, something that does not spur more money," said Jeff DeWit, NASA's CFO, during a press conference on the budget inquiry in March. "This is a very technical requirement to get there faster. So we do not ask for more money for the work. We just need a little more time.
Even if the administration decides to give NASA more money or significantly change the agency's plans, the executive may do so meet alone. As with all government agencies, all major financing decisions must be approved by Congress. Legislators can also set NASA's agenda when determining the annual budget. This is one of the reasons why the SLS is still an integral part of the Space Agency's plans. The missile will be built largely from Alabama – the site of today's Space Council meeting – and this location has received much support from the Alabama representatives in Congress, notably Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). They have endeavored to keep the rocket alive by providing additional resources and prescribing its development as it provides jobs in the state.
So, if NASA wants to accelerate The schedule for the gateway or the deadlines for the completion of the lunar landing participants must be approved by Congress. Granted, Congress has set a precedent in recent years in which NASA has provided more funding than what was required in the President's budget proposals so that legislators may provide the cash flow they need. But until then, Pence's words are just that: words.
In his speech, Pence calls to mind the memory of President John F. Kennedy, who has made a similar bold statement to send people to the moon without a guarantee from the legislature. "Some will say it's too hard, too risky, too expensive," he said. "The same thing was said in 1962." Circumstances have changed dramatically since the 1960s, and we will find out this year whether the Congress wants to pursue Pence's call.
"Time to return," says Logsdon, "I applaud the call to continue."