NASA had requested for $3.2 billion to fund its lunar lander development. However, the Senate appropriations bill would see the agency $1 billion only. It could make it impossible for NASA’s mission to take humans to the moon by 2024.
The commerce, justice, and science (CJS) bill was just one of the fiscal year 2021 spending bills that the Senate appropriators released. CJS bill is responsible for NASA funding. During summer, the House already passed its spending bills. Nevertheless, the appropriators plan to use to negotiate with House starting next month.
The lunar lander development is just one of the projects that NASA is getting funds for. The total amount of money allotted to the agency amounts to $23.495 billion, according to the Senate CJS. Nevertheless, the amount passed by the House bill is less than that by $866 million. It is less than what NASA was expecting for the fiscal year 2021 by $1.75 billion.
According to the Senate appropriators, the shortage is because of the government’s challenges regarding revenue and taxes. Consequently, there is a need to weigh and prioritize NASA’s funding and every other bill aspect. They also said that as much as they may want to fund all the agent’s activities, it would be impossible to do it entirely.
As far as the Human Landing System is concerned, NASA wanted $3.2 billion for the Artemis program’s crewed lunar landers. Whereas the House Bill passed about $600 million for the same, the Senate proposes an additional $400 million, which would amount to $ billion for the agency.
The Senate didn’t go for the full amount of funding either because most indications show that it should be undertaken with precaution. The issues include the involved technical risk, schedule, and the largest remaining cost. Therefore, as much as the mission is good and would mean taking U.S. astronauts to the moon, the future is somewhat blurred to take such a huge risk. The possibility of the project impacting other NASA’s projects negatively since it is quite demanding.
Nevertheless, there is hope for NASA since the funding will not be for making the project successful. Instead, the money should help the agency advance the program and develop more landers. Then, it would define the program better and then have a more refined estimated cost.
NASA officials feel that the limited budget will make it hard for them to hit the 2024 target. The tight schedule is probably one of the reasons the agency didn’t get full funding. Sen. Maria Cantwell said that within a short period, the project would be demanding too many resources. He also suggested that NASA and indeed see people return to the moon, but it ought to set an accurate deadline.
Whether Biden would advocate for the 2024 landing remains a mystery, but from the looks of things he said during the campaign, it is next to impossible. After all, he only mentioned a little about space.