Donald Trump administration on March 11 announced the much awaited 21 billion Dollars Funding to NASA and the space agency Administrator Jim Bridenstine praised the 2020 budget proposal describing the importance of the budget and how it will help the agency to reach the moon, and then continue on to Mars. This step renewed focus on human exploration, including a journey to the moon and eventually Mars.
Bridenstine expressed his joy saying for the first time in over 10 years, we have enough money in this budget for a return to the moon with humans. He explained that the agency is discussing taking human-rated landers, compatible with Gateway, that can go back and forth to the surface of the moon.
This was a historic day for Bridenstine due to the fact that he invested a lot of time in discussing the Gateway, also called the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (and formerly the Deep Space Gateway), which is a proposal based on moon-orbiting outpost that would serve as a waystation to the lunar surface and as a research station. Now this Gateway project is fully funded in the 2020 budget proposal by the trump administration.
There were some setbacks in this mission Pieces of that Lunar Gateway were initially set to launch on an enhanced version of NASA’s upcoming Space Launch System rocket but due to the lack of budget, they failed to do so. The budget document revealed a delay in that enhanced SLS development that allowed for some components to be launched by commercial rockets. According to a NASA summary presentation, the budget proposal includes adding a power and propulsion element by the year 2022 and other components allowing humans to stay on board starting in the year 2024.
NASA can launch a series of small commercial delivery missions to the Moon as early as this year with this increased budget they can create new landers, robots and eventually the space agency is planning a Manned Mission by 2028 to conduct science across the entire lunar surface.
This proposed budget also added some new addition and with an allotment of $363 million they can purchase commercial flights for cargo that can speed up their progress to the moon even sooner than expected.
NASA is confident that once the Gateway was in place there will be an international collaboration like the one happening on the International Space Station. Nations are already coming together with NASA’S program, just a few weeks back Canada became the first partner to officially join the Gateway project with a proposed Canadarm3 robotic arm.
NASA Administrator also showed a new “aspirational” visualization of the Gateway. This visualization also includes prospective additions from the Japanese space agency, JAXA, as well as the European Space Agency and the Russian agency, Roscosmos. NASA is excited and hopeful that different space agencies will team up like ISS. This graphic also included an inflatable habitation module similar to Bigelow’s BEAM module which is currently undergoing testing at the space station.
Bridenstine added that the Gateway would allow NASA to utilize the resources of the moon which means to use the hundreds of millions of tons of water-ice that they already discovered. Necessity items like water and air can be extracted by the surface on the moon. Our natural satellite has water-ice available in hundreds of millions of tons. NASA is confident that its first space policy directive to take these capabilities for an eventual mission to Mars will be successful.
The Trump Administration budget proposal, indeed, fully funds the Mars 2020 mission and a Mars sample-return mission that could launch as soon as 2026 to collect and return to Earth. Both of these missions would fall under the $2.6 billion budget request for planetary science.
People sometimes criticize these space agencies to have invested in learning weather patterns of a different planet but remains inaccurate in predicting Earth’s weather resulting in loss of lives and property destruction. Now, Beyond the moon and Mars, Bridenstine also highlighted that NASA will fund for the Earth sciences directorate – studying interactions within the water cycle and focusing on predicting weather and air quality, as well as ecosystem change due to climate change and other activities.
Bridenstine also confirmed that the James Webb Space Telescope, delayed until a 2021 launch would receive full funding.