In an interview with CNN, NASA’s administrator Jim Bridenstine has finally announced an estimate of $20 to 30 billion on top of NASA’s average annual budget for the ambitious Artemis mission programme to have a chance of succeeding
“It would be $20 to $30 billion on top of the normal NASA budget, but of course, that would be spread over five years.” To get the Artemis program underway, which aims to make history by landing the first woman on the Moon, the White House asked for an additional $1.6 billion during the fiscal year 2020, in addition to the $21 billion budget that the President had requested. However, Bridenstine was always clear on the Mission’s initial budget being simply a “down payment.”
NASA will now require an extra $5 to $6 billion annually for the next five years, based on the estimate given to CNN, to make the new Moon landing a reality. However, Bridenstine did not provide details about how that money would be spent precisely, although it’s possible it would go toward the architecture NASA has been clear about wanting to build for Artemis. NASA is working on completing a new, massive rocket, known as the Space Launch System and a new crew capsule known as Orion, both of these will be used to fly people to the vicinity of the Moon. What’s more, NASA would like to build a new space station around the Moon known as the Gateway, where astronauts can live for short periods and travel down to the Moon’s surface. Maxar, an aerospace company, has already been awarded a contract by NASA to construct the first module for the Gateway.
NASA will also need a landing system to safely move people from the Gateway, land on the Moon, and bring them back to the station. In the next few months, NASA intends to place a final call for lunar lander designs and then select businesses to develop the system over the next two years.
If Artemis is going to be successful, it depends on Congress approving the extra funding for the program, but as of now, that’s not clear. The White House suggested taking the initial $1.6 billion needed for NASA from the Pell Grant fund, which offers scholarships to low-income students, but many lawmakers did not like that idea. The House Appropriations Committee approved the most recent budget for 2020, which gives NASA an increase in funding, but it does not discuss additional funding specifically for Artemis.
If NASA is unable to get the budget, they need, they could take money away from other programs. The White House requested extra money for Artemis in a budget amendment, which also included language that would enable the administrator to move funds from other projects within NASA to be allocated to the Moon mission. Officials at NASA are already preparing for severe cuts shortly.