On Tuesday, in a museum within a stone's throw of Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, Vice President Mike Pence presented a significant space policy speech calling on men and women from America to return to the Moon by 2024. t the Trump administration follows on from the Pence policies outlined – is huge if– It could be argued that this was the most consequential spatial speech since President Kennedy's speech in 1962.
However, Pence's comments, and some of the plan outlined later by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, raised significant questions about the viability of these ideas.
During a 30-minute speech that Ars had a forecast last week, Pence said that NASA had moved too slowly for too long. Fifty years ago, the agency only went to Moon, Pence, eight years ago when NASA didn't know how to do the job. So he was not satisfied with NASA's goal of landing people on the Moon by 2028, and would come 11 years after President Trump set up the goal of returning people to the moon's face.
"Ladies and gentlemen, that's not good enough," Pence told the National Space Council during his meeting at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "We are better than that."
When setting a goal of 2024 for landing humans on the Moon – in the moon South Pole, no less – Pence said that NASA must proceed with “urgent” if it wants to achieve these goals. "This generation is to face the challenge of our time," he said.
Crucially, Pence also noted that the NASA Launch space rocket rocket had been problematic in terms of budget and timetable. When calling for a "major course correction" at NASA, Pence said that the agency must be prepared to consider commercial options for rockets and lunar cleaners if they can do the work and save government money.
"I call on NASA to adopt new policies and welcome new thinking," Pence said. "If our current contractors cannot achieve this objective then we will find some that will." This was likely to be a direction, at least in part, to lower cost rockets built by SpaceX and Blue Origin.
This was a bold speech (we will contact a transcript when available). In his comments, the vice president clearly stated what has been open – but rarely mentioned – in space policy cycles. Major contractors on the Space Launch System, Orion, and other programs have underachieved for the billions of dollars they received. Basically, the agency has been in the “development mode” for deep space exploration for 15 years without any actual audit to show it for, and is on track to stay so for period.
After Pence's speech, NASA's Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, was invited to speak for a few minutes about how NASA could achieve this goal. "You've charged today, and it's prompt," said Bridenstine. "Thank you for that vision and that leadership. Our agency, NASA, is going to do everything it can to reach that deadline."
To achieve this, however, Bridenstine doubled down on the Space Launch System rocket. "If we want to achieve 2024, we have to have SLS," said Bridenstine. The rocket will no longer be postponed, he said. Indeed, while NASA engineers say the reinforcement cannot be ready before 2021, its launch date will be introduced.
On Tuesday, Bridenstine said Exploration Mission-1, which means flying an uncovered version of Orion around the Moon, will move on on SLS reinforcement in 2020. This announcement came less than two weeks after its suggested that NASA should launch the first moon flight of Orion on commercial rockets due to continued delays in the SLS.
In another dramatic change, Bridenstine also said that the agency must accelerate work at an advanced advanced stage for the SLS rocket, called Exploration Upper Stage. This will be required for the third or fourth journey of the SLS rocket (probably part of the digest for the moon's journey). But Bridenstine did not say why. On the other hand, the president's budget bid released earlier this month called for funding to be deferred at this top stage until it was needed. Anyway, it is difficult to see this top step, essentially a new rocket, ready by 2024.
At the same time NASA will also be developing Porth Lunar (a small outlet near the Moon) to serve as a staging point in an orbit for tours to the surface. And NASA will begin (and complete) the development of the moon's cleaners, likely through commercial providers. That 's a lot to put on a NASA plate, surely if there is too much performance in the agency in the past.
In a nutshell
All this is so ambitious, because Pence's vision is trying to shock NASA and its legacy contractors out of their usual consideration as a business.
What happens next is not entirely clear. Few mentioned in the budget. Unless NASA removes the SLS program and its total budget of $ 3 billion, the agency will have no money for starting a moon landing program. But as a SLS cut seems unlikely to occur (at least at the moment), the NASA inspection program will require a multi-million-dollar inflow to be viable. Later in the meeting, Pence distorted James Herz, associate director at the White House Office of Management and Budget. "Well, we'll come to OMB," said Pence.
Nor is it clear how this Congress will move. Obviously, Bridenstine's comments Tuesday about the launch of Orion on SLS reflects a push back from Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, who supports the development of a large rocket in his state at the Marshall Space Space Center. The senator who has power over NASA's budget has said clearly na to Orion which was launched commercially yes funding for the Upper Exploration Stage.
In short, although Pence has promised a revolutionary method of lighting space during his speech on Tuesday, the proposed architecture of Bridenstine – which includes SLS rocket, Gateway, and Exploration Upper Stage – feels; n is very similar to business as usual.