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MoneyNASA Could Go to the Moon Next Year

07:55  15 march  2019
07:55  15 march  2019 Source:   theatlantic.com

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The Trump administration ’s proposed 2019 NASA budget provides resources to advance exploration of the moon and deep space and pursue cutting-edge science, technology and aeronautics research breakthroughs. In NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot’s address Feb.

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NASA Could Go to the Moon Next Year © Johnson Space Center / NASA

NASA has spent the past decade working on the world’s most powerful rocket. The Space Launch System will stand taller than the Statue of Liberty. It will be capable of lifting more than 200,000 pounds into space. It’s designed to launch American astronauts toward the moon once again.

The SLS is supposed to fly for the first time in June 2020. NASA plans to launch an empty crew capsule on a trip around the moon and back, an important test before putting people on board. But the rocket isn’t ready.

“We’re now understanding better how difficult this project is,” Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator, told Congress, which controls the agency’s budget, this week. “And it is going to take some additional time.”

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The next milestone for the new reactor, called Kilopower, could be an inaugural spaceflight “When we go to the moon and eventually on to Mars, we are likely going to need large power sources not The latest NASA and DoE Kilopower tests occurred from November 2017 through March of this year .

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Bridenstine seemed to be setting up another disappointing delay, ready to reassure lawmakers with a new date for the inaugural flight of the record-breaking rocket. Instead, he said NASA might scrap its current plan and use a different rocket altogether.

Officials will now consider using a rocket from a commercial U.S. company, not a federal agency, to launch the Orion capsule on a three-week journey around the moon.

The announcement marks a stunning reversal in long-term strategy for the space agency. NASA has already spent billions of dollars to develop the SLS and prepare the rocket to carry the capsule to space. Under this plan, the agency would presumably pay a company to do the job. Donald Trump’s administration wants to get NASA to the moon next summer, and that appears to take precedent over how it gets there.

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While Nasa has contracted SpaceX to launch crewed missions to the International Space Station, the company has not yet flown any missions with humans. Musk remained optimistic on the call, saying, “ Next year is going to be the big year for carrying people.” In a statement, Nasa said it “commends

SpaceX, the ambitious rocket company headed by Elon Musk, wants to send a couple of tourists around the moon and back to Earth before the end of next year . If they manage that feat, the passengers would be the first humans to venture that far into space in more than 40 years .

“We have amazing capability that exists right now that we can use off the shelf in order to accomplish this objective,” Bridenstine said.

NASA Could Go to the Moon Next Year View of the Moon (from at point 70 east longitude), taken during NASA's Apollo 8 mission, December 1968. Among the visible features is Mare Cristium, the dark, near circular shape at center right, December 1968. (Photo by NASA/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

A return to the moon has been a top priority for NASA since President Trump was elected, and the Space Launch System is key to the effort. The Trump administration wants to use the rocket to help build a floating lunar outpost, the equivalent of a little International Space Station around the moon, and it wants construction completed by 2024.

But the SLS program, established during Barack Obama’s administration, is running behind schedule and over budget. The office of NASA’s inspector general has criticized NASA and Boeing, the rocket’s main contractor, over their management and performance, predicted more delays, and even questioned whether the entire effort is sustainable.

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“ We will go to the Moon in the next decade in a way we have never gone before. Just as Apollo inspired a generation 50 years ago, NASA continues to inspire with feats of science and exploration today. If we bring together the capabilities and resources of our international and commercial partners

"We choose to go to the Moon " is the famous tagline of a speech about the effort to reach the Moon delivered by United States President John F. Kennedy to a large crowd gathered at Rice Stadium in

Gallery: Extremely high-res outtakes from Apollo 11’s 1969 moon landing (Quartz)

NASA has a long history of being late, including on some of its most high-profile missions, such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Mars Curiosity rover. According to government auditors, the agency’s major projects experienced average launch delays of 12 months in 2018, the worst in a decade. Some degree of delay is certainly expected, considering the nature of the work; when your job is to try something no one else has ever done before, in outer space, it’s difficult to estimate how long it will take.

But engineering challenges are only part of the equation. NASA tends to set overly ambitious deadlines, a habit forged in the days of the Apollo era, when budgets and schedules were secondary concerns to success. When the payoff was beating the Soviets to the moon, lawmakers ultimately accepted these pitfalls.

NASA Could Go to the Moon Next Year © Time & Life Pictures UNSPECIFIED - DECEMBER 1968: Surface of the moon as seen during the Apollo 8 mission. (Photo by NASA/NASA/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

This kind of culture might have been sustainable if NASA’s budget continued to grow, or even remained steady, in the years since the Apollo program, but it has shrunk instead. (The president’s budget proposal for NASA, released days ago, included a 17 percent cut in funding for SLS.) Add the effects of rotating casts in Washington throughout the years, featuring players with their own ideas about what NASA should do, and you’ve got a recipe for not getting much done on time.

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Early next year , Trump will make his annual budget request, where he could potentially ask for more money for NASA to build new hardware for a human Until then, the Trump administration has only said a lot of words about going to the Moon . It’s going to take more than signing this directive to put

Bridenstine said the moon mission would require a heavy-lift vehicle, a type of powerful rocket capable of lifting something into orbit above Earth. The administrator didn’t say which rockets the agency would consider, but he has options. There’s the Delta IV Heavy, built by the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the contractor for the capsule. This mammoth rocket launched the Orion capsule into orbit for a quick, four-hour test in 2014. And then there’s the Falcon Heavy, even more powerful, from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which flew for the first time last year.

NASA Could Go to the Moon Next Year © 2018 SpaceX IN SPACE - FEBRUARY 8: In this handout photo provided by SpaceX, a Tesla roadster launched from the Falcon Heavy rocket with a dummy driver named 'Starman' heads towards Mars. (Photo by SpaceX via Getty Images)

SpaceX seems like a natural fit for this endeavor. The company is currently building a rocket-and-capsule combo designed to reach the moon in 2023, and a Japanese billionaire has already bought a ticket for as many as eight passengers. Musk has spent years saying that someone should have built a base on the moon by now. He said it again less than two weeks ago, and Bridenstine was literally sitting next to him. “I hope we go back to the moon soon,” Musk said. “We should have a base on the moon, like a permanently occupied human base on the moon.”

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Back in December of 2017, President Trump signed a directive which essentially told NASA to focus more on getting back to the Moon rather than focusing on. Now, it has been revealed that NASA will soon reveal their plan to go back to the moon . What purpose will the Moon serve, and what can we

The fifth largest moon in the solar system, Earth's moon is the only place beyond Earth where humans have set The United States would launch the first manned vehicle to go to the Moon . The shape and size of the And a year before astronauts walked on the moon , 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) told

And yet SpaceX has been conspicuously absent from the Trump administration’s plans for lunar exploration. NASA and SpaceX already have a solid working relationship—Bridenstine and Musk even posed for a selfie recently, wearing matching hard hats before an important SpaceX launch.

But though NASA has solicited proposals from U.S. space companies for rover and lander concepts, as well as hardware for the proposed lunar outposts, SpaceX’s name hasn’t come up, at least not publicly. (SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment about the announcement.) Bridenstine did celebrate the company’s successful launch to the International Space Station during his Congress appearance this week, and for him, a private company’s triumphs in space could still count as a victory for American innovation and industriousness. These achievements also make it difficult, or at least uncomfortable, for NASA to tout costly programs when commercial companies are doing similar work for less.

NASA Could Go to the Moon Next Year © Time & Life Pictures UNSPECIFIED - DECEMBER 1968: Earth rising over curvature of the moon as seen from Apollo 8. (Photo by NASA/NASA/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Trump himself has picked up on that. “We’re letting them use the Kennedy Space Center for a fee and, you know, rich guys, they love rocket ships,” Trump said last year, after the Falcon Heavy blasted off from a launchpad in Cape Canaveral that NASA leases to SpaceX. “That’s better than us paying for them.” He went on to say that NASA would probably have run through “40, 50 times” the money to achieve the same goal.

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A lot will have to go right for SpaceX to meet its ambitious moon -mission timetable, experts say. On Monday (Feb. 27), SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk announced that the company plans to launch two paying customers on a weeklong trip around the moon before the end of 2018.

The president’s remarks seem eerily portentous now.

The news came as a surprise, including to the very engineers developing the Orion capsule. A spokesperson for Lockheed Martin says NASA told them about the potential change a few days ago, and added that the company is “committed to this goal.” But it appears that some employees weren’t in the loop.

“Completely changing the mission would invalidate tons of work already done,” says an engineer who works for Lockheed Martin, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the press. “Pretty irritating that I have been busting my ass for a couple of weeks on some close-out analysis for [the first SLS flight] that directly pertains to SLS, only for the administrator to drop this bomb.”

NASA Could Go to the Moon Next Year © Heritage Space Close-up view of a crater on the surface of the Moon. Artist NASA. (Photo by Heritage Space/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

The administrator’s proposed plan would require more work for Orion engineers, he said, which could lead to even more delays.

The SLS could have taken the Orion crew capsule directly to the moon. No commercial rocket is powerful enough to get that far, so Bridenstine has proposed breaking the mission into two launches. The first would deliver the capsule and its service module, supplied by the European Space Agency, which provides the electricity, propulsion, temperature regulation, and other important features. The second would deliver a smaller rocket equipped with an engine that can be used in space. The spacecraft and the rocket would join together, and the engine would fire to boost them all toward the moon.

NASA Could Go to the Moon Next Year © Heritage Space Spiral galaxy in Triangulum constellation. Artist NASA. (Photo by Heritage Space/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

NASA has completed such complicated unions in the past, but the current design for Orion doesn’t accommodate it. “Between now and June of 2020, we would have to make that a reality,” Bridenstine said.

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“The integration challenges are significant,” the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, an industry group that represents Boeing and other aerospace companies, said in a statement. “It is also clear that this approach would require additional funding, since the idea is to undertake both this mission and to continue development of the SLS apace.”

NASA Could Go to the Moon Next Year © 2016 Bill Ingalls/NASA PROMONTORY, UT - JUNE 28: In this handout provided by NASA, the moon rises ahead of the second and final qualification motor (QM-2) test for the Space Launch System's booster on Tuesday, June 28, 2016, at Orbital ATK Propulsion Systems test facilities in Promontory, Utah. During the Space Launch System flight the boosters will provide more than 75 percent of the thrust needed to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth, the first step on NASA's Journey to Mars. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)

Bridenstine said that he remains committed to supporting the development of the SLS for future missions, including a crewed visit to the moon. No commercial rocket is certified to transport humans, and companies would need to undergo rigorous reviews and testing from NASA if they wanted to do it. But all missions to space, whether they carry a Tesla or an astronaut, start with a rocket—and it really helps to have one if you’re raring to fly.

Moon photos from the 1960s were developed in space—here's how.
To find safe places for Apollo astronauts to land, NASA designed five survey satellites carrying classified defense technology.

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