Nov 19, 2019

NASA's difficult road to 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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NASA finds India's crashed Moon lander

A before/after showing the Vikram lander's crash site. Gif: NASA/Goddard/ASU

The final resting place of India's failed lunar lander has been found.

The big picture: The Vikram lander was India's bid to become the fourth nation to land and operate a spacecraft on the surface of the Moon. The mission failed on Sept. 6 when a thruster issue caused the lander to crash not long before its expected touchdown.

Go deeperArrowDec 3, 2019

Stopping a Mars mission from messing with the mind

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Space agencies and scientists are testing new ways to mitigate the psychological effects of a trip to Mars.

Why it matters: One of the major limiting factors for a mission to Mars will be the human mind, experts agree.

Go deeperArrowDec 10, 2019

Where to hunt for life on Mars

Mars as seen by the Curiosity rover. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

After decades of sending missions to Mars, NASA is now zeroing in on regions of the red planet that they think have the best chance of determining whether the world has hosted — or hosts — life.

The big picture: Scientists are now able to point to parts of Mars that were once likely wet and warm, with geological signatures similar to the rivers, deltas and lakes on Earth — upping the odds that those parts of Mars could have once been friendly to life.

Go deeperArrowNov 19, 2019