Nov 19, 2019 - Science

NASA's difficult road to the Moon

A view of earth from the moon

Photo: NASA

A new report paints a stark picture of NASA's progress toward accomplishing its Artemis mission to the Moon in 2024.

Why it matters: The report from NASA's inspector general — and others like it — reveals some of what lurks below the positive face the space agency puts forward announcing its accomplishments and hyping its future endeavors.

  • "I think the report is part of a piece, and the piece is that we seem to be kidding ourselves about the likelihood of achieving our exploration goals," John Logsdon, the founder of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, told Axios.

Details: One of the major issues the report points out is NASA's struggles to manage big projects like the development of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, both of which are key to Artemis.

  • Years of delays, cost overruns and budget shortfalls have put the space agency behind in its exploration goals and calls into question the timelines set out to complete future missions, like Artemis.
  • The report also found SpaceX and Boeing are unlikely to regularly fly astronauts to the International Space Station before summer 2020, which could mean a reduction in NASA crew aboard the station.
  • These delays aren't just limited to human exploration. NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule, threatening to delay other astrophysics missions coming after it.

What to watch: NASA is working to get Artemis fully funded by Congress.

  • On Oct. 31, the Senate approved a spending bill that allocates $22.75 billion for NASA, which does include some of the additional $1.6 billion NASA requested in order to accelerate Artemis to the Moon by 2024.
  • While that appears to be good news for NASA, it's now likely that Congress will need to pass a stopgap bill that will fund the government at fiscal year 2019 levels until discrepancies with the appropriations bills can be resolved.

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