NASA's Artemis Program to return Humans to the Moon at a Cost of $28 Billion

Artemis
Photo : Alan Bean

NASA announced its plan to go back to the moon. The announcement was made on Monday. The mission is scheduled for 2024. It is expected to cost $28 billion. Approximately $16 billion will be used on the lunar landing module.

The Artemis program is funded by the US government and led by NASA. However, international partners are also involved. NASA has also contracted spaceflight companies. Artemis seeks to create a sustainable presence on the moon. This will help private companies build a lunar economy. The Artemis program was authorized in December 2017. This happened after President Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1. Artemis draws on different spacecraft programs. 

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Artemis Program is a top priority for Trump's administration

NASA requested $1.6 billion to fund the Artemis program for 2020. However, the Senate requested a five-year budget profile for evaluation by Congress. The Artemis project is a top priority for President Trump. Congress will have to approve the financing of this project. $28 billion will cover the program from 2021 to 2025.

Meanwhile, the coming elections pose a huge threat to the program. This is because of the political risks involved. President Obama canceled plans for the Mars mission. This happened after President Bush spent billions on the project.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine made a statement on the program. He said that NASA is on track for the 2024 moon landing, provided Congress approves the first $3.2 billion. NASA plans to land on the lunar South Pole. This region is of special interest to NASA. This is because of the existence of water ice in the area. It also features unique craters. Some of which have fossil records of water ice and hydrogen.

Three projects are competing to build the lunar lander. This vehicle will be used to carry astronauts from the Orion to the Moon. The first project is being developed by Blue Origin. The other two are being undertaken by SpaceX and Dynetics.

Artemis program schedule

Artemis I is scheduled for November of 2021. However, this flight will be unmanned. The Orion capsule will take off with the SLS rocket.

Artemis II is scheduled for 2023. This flight will take astronauts around the moon without landing. Artemis III will be similar to Apollo 11 of 1969. However, astronauts will stay on the Moon for a week. NASA plans to conduct scientific experiments in the lunar South Pole region. Some of these experiments have never been done before. The agency expects to make new discoveries in the South Pole.

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This program presents NASA with special challenges. There are also risks involved with human spaceflight. However, NASA is well prepared to deal with technical risks. However, the main risk is political in nature. The program runs over the long term and might get abandoned in its later stage. This is why NASA has a strict timeline. This will reduce the political risk and save money.

The Artemis program is likely to be successful. However, Congress will have to approve the budget profile. This will give NASA the resources required for a sucessful moon landing.

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