Ahead of a high US Vice President Mike Pence has joined NASA with the acceleration of its Commissioned moonplanes last week. Instead of 2028, Pence wanted four years earlier, before the end of 2024, shoes on the ground. This represented the rarest moments in space flight ̵
The aerospace community welcomed the announcement with a healthy dose of skepticism. Many rocket builders, spaceship designers, air traffic controllers and astronauts have seen this movie before. Both in 1989 and 2004, Republican governments have announced ambitious Moon Mars Mars space plans just because they have to die for lack of funding and support from the White House.
But this new proposal is promising. Pence and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine have set a clear goal for the agency and promised lasting political support. Moreover, they said that the "end" matters more than the "means". This suggests that the plan, regardless of the rockets and spacecraft that NASA uses to reach the Moon, should be based on the best available and least expensive technology. In short, they want to promote healthy, open competition in the US aerospace industry to help NASA and America achieve their goals.
At a city hall meeting on Monday for space agency officials, Bridenstine called the Moon 2024 initiative "once upon a time" a unique opportunity for NASA. "This may be a bit hyperbolic, but it represents a rare opportunity for the vast bureaucratic federal agency whose human exploration programs have been receding for decades to achieve a better future.  This is therefore an important, albeit uncertain, momentum in US space travel. To understand how we came here and where we're going, Ars has spoken to a dozen well-placed sources in the aerospace industry, from new space companies and major carriers to leading NASA leaders and political insiders. Most of them are not mentioned because of their sensitive positions. many of them are facing challenges.
What is the plan?
Pence instructed NASA to land humans at the South Pole of the Moon by 2024. Most likely, this would be a two- or four-person crew, including the first woman to visit the moon. Landings near the Poles are significant because half a century ago the Apollo missions remained relatively close to the Moon's equator and NASA would like to know if there really is plenty of water near the poles in Shadow's Crater.
The crew would descend to the lunar surface from an outpost in the lunar orbit known as the Gateway. Initially, these missions to the Moon were associated with short stakes, but Pence also instructed NASA to build a permanent base on the lunar surface by 2028.
During the lunar surveys, NASA and its astronauts tested technologies to survive and work longer in space beyond the relative safety of a near-Earth orbit. By learning on the moon, NASA was able to develop plans that would allow people to travel to Mars in the 2030s. Bridenstine insists that the agency has not lost sight of this goal.
What is behind it?
When Pence and Bridenstine stepped deeper into the agency's human exploration programs last year, they are frustrated with the pace of progress. A meeting with Boeing representatives in mid-March, during which the main contractor of the Space Launch System rocket stated that they could not submit a launch date for the June 2020 test, proved to be a breakthrough.
Pence expressed this frustration in his moon speech on March 26 at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. In the 1960s, Pence said, the agency needed only eight years to go to the moon when NASA did not know how to do that job. Well, NASA has said it will not be able to land people on the moon before 2028, more than eleven years after President Trump set the goal of bringing people to the lunar surface. "Ladies and gentlemen, that's just not good enough," said Pence. "We are better than that."
Neither Bridenstine nor Pence said so explicitly, but these comments show that NASA has become too bureaucratic, too timid, and too risk averse. Bridenstine had a remarkable response during his town hall meeting this week when he was asked why he had not set the safety timetable with his ambitious 2024 landing target.
"I would not say that there is a return to the safety schedule is a return to the schedule," he said. "Safety is of the utmost importance to all employees of this agency. The mission number one, however, is not security. If so, we all stayed in the ready room and watched CNN. "
Pence and Bridenstine challenged NASA to do better and tried to put urgency into a human exploration program that had been lacking since the 1960s. 19659009] What happens next?
The management of the agency will try to move quickly. Bridenstine has instructed NASA's Human Spaceflight Director, William Gerstenmaier, to refine a plan of missions and vehicles that could meet the 2024 deadline. Meanwhile, Bridenstine is working with the White House and the Office of Management to determine the cost.
The President had submitted his budget application for the 2020 budget to Congress more than three weeks ago, so the administration must amend the proposal with respect for NASA's budget and then submit it to Congress. During a hearing on Tuesday, Bridenstine hoped that this change would be accepted into Congress by April 15. This will give the first overview of the costs of the new Moon program, although previous estimates suggest that $ 2 to $ 4 billion a year in addition to NASAs require a current budget of $ 21 billion a year. Bridenstine said he did not want to steal from other parts of the agency's budget to pay for the initiative.
Bridenstine said he bought both Pence and President Trump for his plan, but still has to sell it to Congress. "Due to the discussions that I have had, the administration has an obligation. Of course I can not speak for the congress, "he said in the town hall.