Apr 03, 2019 08:42 AM EDT
Vice President Mike Pence recently issued a statement demanding NASA to put Americans on the Moon within the next 5 years. It is obviously not an easy feat and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said that NASA will need more funding in order to adhere to the White House mandate. However, he did not say how much more money NASA would need or provide any specific details of how it plans to accomplish the mission. He said he was fully aware that past administrations have set bold goals to explore the moon or Mars, only to pull them back as Congress fails to provide funding or a new administration comes in and cancels previous plans.
Political inconsistencies are not NASA's only hurdle in the space-race of the 21st century. NASA is also struggling with its moon rocket, the SLS. Frustrated with the constant delays, Bridenstine told a Senate hearing last month that he would look at using other, commercial rockets for the upcoming test flight of the Orion spacecraft that would ultimately be used to fly astronauts to the lunar Gateway. However, at the groans and grumbles of Congress, Bridenstine has since backtracked, saying it just was not technically feasible to use commercial rockets for the mission.
Bridenstine mentioned in a town hall meeting Monday that he was confident that the White House would push for additional funding since returning to the moon was a mandate "from the top." "We're going to need additional means," Bridenstine said. "I don't think anyone can take this level of commitment seriously unless there are additional means." But the White House's budget request of 21 billion dollars for NASA for next year is 480 million dollars less than what Congress appropriated in this year's spending plan. Still, Bridenstine said he was confident the agency would achieve the White House's goal, whatever the difficulties. "I'm not suggesting there are not holes here," he said. "The reality is we're moving quickly, and we're looking at all options. There is nothing off the table."
Many in the space community compare the wishy-washiness of the previous administrations' space goals to the scene in the cartoon strip "Peanuts" when Lucy pulls the football away just as Charlie Brown is about to kick it. "I hear the comment all the time about Lucy and the football," Bridenstine said. "This is not Lucy and the football. In the executive branch, people are very serious, we are going to the moon and going fast."
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