The space agency will need an estimated $ 20 to $ 30 billion for its lunar project over the next five years, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told CNN Business on Thursday. This would mean that the agency's budget will increase on average by another $ 4 to $ 6 billion a year, which is already around $ 20 billion a year.
Bridenstine's remarks are the first time that NASA has shared a total cost estimate for its lunar program, called Artemis (after the Greek moon goddess), which for the first time in half a century has been able to send people back to the lunar surface. NASA wants this mission to include two astronauts: a man and a woman walking on the moon for the first time.
"We are negotiating within the administration," he said. "We're talking [the federal Office of Management and Budget]we're talking to the National Space Council." (The National Space Council is a recently revitalized political development group led by Vice President Mike Pence.)
"As soon as we come to a resolution within the administration, we will, of course, bring it up the hill and back," said Bridenstine sure that our congress members are interested and willing to support this effort.
Will NASA Get Their Money?
However, it would be hardest to win the legislature.  Pence announced in March that the Trump administration was celebrating NASA's lunar ambitions It was only five years away, and the entire NASA hardware needed was either delayed, well above budget, or existing not yet.
So far, NASA has only asked for another $ 1.6 billion for Artemis, which called Bridenstine a small "down payment." For the full program.
Meanwhile, members of the congress have voted for one after the administration Overall cost estimate and a detailed plan on how the money will be spent Bridenstine must also win Democrats who are already skeptical.
Some fear that NASA will eventually divert funds from its other programs, which include robotic exploration missions, geosciences and climate studies, and other important scientific research.
"I'll tell you what I'm aiming for – and I was. That's very clear: we need to make sure we do not exploit parts of NASA to fund the Artemis program," said Bridenstine.
And he said he was confident that NASA would persuade the congress to go on board: "I believe there is a strong desire, it is non-partisan to explore the science and history of our own solar system learn and understand. "
NASA and US taxpayers have already invested heavily in the rockets and spacecraft to be used for the voyage. But these projects were routinely criticized. You have been years behind schedule and budget.
Other hardware that NASA does not yet need: A small space station orbiting the moon and serving as an outpost for astronauts, called the Lunar Gateway, along with a lander capable of bringing people down from the station bring the lunar surface.
These are not cheap projects.
However, NASA's spending has dropped many times over many other departments. For example, the Ministry of Defense's annual budget has reached $ 1.3 trillion a year. Health and Human Resources services are valued at $ 90 billion annually. And the Homeland Security Authority receives about 50 billion US dollars annually.
What this means for business
And NASA pays attention: A Significant Part of Research and Research Development for the Artemis program will come from the private sector. It's part of NASA's and Bridenstine's plan to cut costs and turn space into a business-friendly environment.
"We're returning to the moon, but we're doing it quite differently than in the 1960s," said Bridenstine CNN Business. "We need commercial operators because they can drive innovation when they compete for cost and innovation."
NASA has been working with entrepreneurs for a long time. For example, Boeing helped build the Saturn V rocket that drove the Apollo program. And these days, Lockheed Martin and Boeing are prime contractors for Orion and SLS.
However, NASA's commercial partnerships vary: Space Agency aims to design, test and build technologies for private sector companies and then compete for lucrative government contracts. According to Bridenstine, NASA is essentially just another customer for space companies.