NASA needs anywhere from $20 billion to $30 billion on top of the space agency’s current budget to land humans on the moon by 2024, according to a new interview with the NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.
“Think of it as a short term investment to have a sustainable program at the moon where we’re ultimately keeping our eyes on Mars,” Bridenstine told CNN.
The future moon landing mission, dubbed Artemis after the Greek goddess whose brother was Apollo, has already stirred a minor controversy after President Donald Trump flip flopped, first saying back in May that he wanted to send astronauts back to the moon, then tweeting a week ago that it was a waste of time.
“NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon — We did that 50 years ago. They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part),” President Trump tweeted on June 7.
But Bridenstine seems undaunted by the mixed messages, nimbly trying to make it sound like President Trump’s flip flop simply makes sense in the broader context.
“How do we learn to live and work on another world, namely the moon, and then go on to Mars, and do it in a way that when this is complete, the American people can have a program that they can be proud of long term?” Bridenstine told CNN on Thursday.
The current NASA space budget is already about $20 billion annually and any budget increase would need to go through Congress. Bridenstine, who was previously a Republican U.S. House Representative in Oklahoma, has repeatedly said that Congress can find the money somewhere. The Trump regime has already submitted a request for an additional $1.6 billion for NASA’s budget for the next fiscal year.
Trump’s budget butchers are reportedly looking at getting that $1.6 billion from the Pell Grants program, which helps low income Americans attend college. But that funding plan isn’t sitting well with most Democrats.
“Last night, the White House proposed slashing Pell grant funding by nearly $3.9 billion,” Senator Kamala Harris tweeted on May 14. “More than 8 million low-income college kids rely on this. We already have students forgoing meals & sleeping in cars because they can’t afford the rising costs of college. This is backwards.”
But without the extra NASA funding, wherever it comes from, any future moon landing would be likely pushed to 2028. And that’s probably going to be a problem for President Trump, because he obviously doesn’t really care about going to space, he only cares about the adulation he’d receive if it happened during his presidency.
Correction: Gizmodo’s caption to the photo above of Jim Bridenstine originally stated that he was drinking a Mountain Dew while testifying to a congressional committee on March 13, 2019. Bridenstine was drinking a Diet Mountain Dew. Gizmodo deeply regrets the error and will try to do better next time.