WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Fifty years after Neil Armstrong took his one small step onto the moon, Congress wants to know about the next steps in America’s space program.
NASA astronauts haven’t traveled beyond low earth orbit since 1972. Washington Correspondent Jessi Turnure reports on NASA’s plan to change that.
Vice President Mike Pence set an ambitious deadline earlier this year to land humans on the moon by 2024. But right now, NASA can’t afford to get them there.
Fifty years after the first man walked on the moon, “We can see one thing is missing,” said U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington).
NASA is working to send the first woman.
“I hope that in this next mission, we can use whatever tools we have to call on America’s brightest women engineers to participate in this process,” Cantwell said.
Cantwell and other members of Congress asked NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine about sending women and men back to the moon by 2024.
“A total of 12 people walked on the surface of the moon, and then the program ended, explained NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “I think that’s kind of been a let down for NASA over the last 50 years. We want to continue doing these stunning achievements, go further and explore more.”
Bridenstine says the new Artemis Program will take an entirely different approach than the Apollo missions. This time, trips will be sustainable, access new parts of the moon’s surface and lay the groundwork for further exploration.
“So we can, in fact, take that technology, take that capability to Mars,” Bridenstine said.
But before astronauts can go to the moon, Mars and beyond, NASA needs money.
Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker broke down the numbers, telling his colleagues they would have to approve $4 to $6 billion in extra funding each year.
“The cost is a challenge for NASA,” Wicker said.
“It’s difficult for us to approve the mission if we don’t know what the ultimate cost will be to the taxpayers.,” Cantrell added.
Bridenstine says NASA should have a final estimate in February but stressed that, right now, it can’t afford a spacecraft to land on the moon.
“We don’t have money in the budget right now to develop a lander,” Bridenstine said. He asked Congress to step forward with funding to help launch NASA into the future.
Ahead of a human return to the moon, NASA is working with multiple companies on science investigations and technology demonstrations starting in 2020.
For more information about the Artemis missions, you can read Bridenstine’s testimony from Wednesday’s hearing.