Almost two months ago, Vice President Mike Pence gave NASA orders to find a way to return to the Moon by 2024. Since then, engineers have been working to create a plan that uses the technology they already have to make the mission a reality.
Many ideas started circulating within the space agency, including installing a Moon base by 2028. Below you can see graphics showing information about the launches needed to build a Lunar Gateway:
The plan spans over the next decade, detailing 37 rocket launches. The program was created by Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s senior human spaceflight manager. The final goal is what Pence asked for: a Moon base. Even though the plan is formidable and its completion will go down in history, it also brings three significant problems.
While NASA has most of the resources needed to fulfill the plan, one of the things missing is money. The space agency asked for $1.6 billion in funding for the fiscal year 2020 to jump-start the development of the equipment needed for the ambitious project. However, all of the missions required to build the lunar base will cost much more. According to sources, each part of the project will cost almost $8 billion per year, exceeding NASA’s current budget of $20 billion.
NASA’s Strategy To Build A Moon Base Is Not Free Of Challenges
Another essential factor that is missing is international partners. It has not been made clear yet where other space organizations, like ESA, will stand in the whole deal. The International Space Program is evidence that international collaboration is needed to avoid political conflicts.
NASA may also encounter another issue.
As the space agency relies on its contractors to deliver hardware, all of the necessary technological equipment may not be ready in time. For example, Boeing has been working on the core stage of the Space Launch System for eight years, and it still will not be ready for another couple of years.
Another concern is that NASA could be in danger of becoming a political football. Democrats are most likely to disagree with Pell Grants as the source of funding. Some speculations even claim the whole deal is meant to undermine the space program since White House’s Office of Management finds it way too costly.
The main question is: What happens if Donald Trump does not win the 2020 election? The next administration will not see much progress in the Moon base project since the SLS rocket will not be ready by then. This could make NASA vulnerable, especially if the next leader will consider other issues more relevant and decide to reduce funding for the space program. With so many problems waiting to be discussed and solved, a Moon base does not seem tangible soon. We will have to wait and see what is going to happen.
Jasmine holds a Master’s in Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and writes professionally in a broad variety of genres. She has worked as a senior manager in public relations and communications for major telecommunication companies, and is the former Deputy Director for Media Relations with the Modern Coalition. Jasmine writes primarily in our LGBTTQQIAAP and Science section.