It has been 50 years since NASA has deployed its spacecraft from the American soil out to the moon’s surface due to costly effects of space exploration and shaky political decisions. But NASA announced this week that it has received its nod of approval from the Trump administration and will go full throttle to the moon up to its awaited launch in 2024.
“Our greatest achievements remain ahead of us. And as the chief appropriator for NASA, I will work with the President of the United States, the Vice President and Jim Bridenstine, to make certain NASA has the resources to land the first woman on the Moon and build lasting infrastructure to support missions to Mars and beyond,” Senator Jerry Moran, chairman of the CJS Appropriations Committee in the Senate — that’s the key committee that funds NASA said in a tweet.
Moreover, President Donald Trump also said in Tweet that it is willing to allocate a $1.6 billion budget on NASA’s mission back to Mars in a “BIG WAY.”
However, critics have expressed that with all the plans that NASA has announced so far, $1.6 billion might not be so big after all. Some claim that they need at least $8 billion to proceed.
In an exclusive interview with Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s current administrator, he stated that “[NASA] already [has] SLS, Orion, and the European Service Module well underway. Those are three of the biggest components to getting humans to the Moon, and we’re on the brink of being ready with those programs. When we talk about what we need, we’ve got to get the Gateway developed, and we need to get the landing systems developed.”
Moreover, he goes to explain that commercial partners will also be helping behind NASA’s ambitious mission of space exploration. Enthusiastic in a sense that they’re not only planning to land in the moon but also go farther into space like Mars and beyond.
Just this year, a commercial company, Space X has successfully launched and landed an American-made and from American soil spacecraft named Dragon to the ISS for the first time since the NASA space shuttles retired.
In retrospect, commercial companies are helping pave the way for NASA to accomplish its mission of returning to space; alongside recent innovations in space travel developed through the years.
The 2024 mission, coined Artemis, will potentially have up to 11 launches that include hardware deployment, testing, and actual human launches in the next five years. Commercial companies will also be playing a large part in doing the deployment and testing of NASA’s hardware and plans.
Primarily, NASA has SLS or the Space Launch System well underway. The SLS is an American space shuttle intended to thrust rockets into space from Americal soil. According to NASA, SLS is set to be the most powerful rocket in existence with a total thrust greater than that of Saturn V.
SLS follows the cancellation of the Constellation Program and is to replace the retired Space Shuttle. The Constellation Program, which included Ares I, for heavy cargo deployment, and Ares V, for crew launches. SLS brings both concepts into one rocket that would carry both payload and crew in a single launch.
Secondly, the SLS will also be carrying a brand new crew capsule called Orion that will be equipped with the European Service Module and will shelter the crew as they lift off from the Earth until the moon’s orbit. Orion is reported to be also well into development.
Based on NASA’s plans, Orion will be able to dock in an orbiting platform called Gateway. It will function as a resting point or a transition platform for NASA crew as they descend into the moon through another lander. Both Gateway and Orion are still set to be developed by partner commercial companies as the mission proceeds in the coming years.
On the topic of Gateway, the orbiting platform which will likely resemble the ISS but rather than orbiting the Earth it will be specifically set to orbit the moon where future landers will be stored to give astronauts the power and thrust needed to descend and ascend the moon. Moreover, it can also be used as a resting point when NASA decides to push farther into deeper space like Mars.
There are a lot of things to look forward as NASA thrusts into space in the next five years but there are also a lot of questions that await answers as we have yet to see how plans turn into eventualities but one thing’s for sure: they are all going to be exciting as how all of this could impact human society.