WASHINGTON – A key senator said she would continue to push through NASA’s authorization bill to support the Artemis moon exploration program, but not necessarily the agency’s goal is to bring people Return to the moon in 2024.
In a speech on November 6 at a conference hosted by the University of Washington’s Center for Space Policy and Research (SPARC), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Senior Fellow of the Senate Commerce Committee, said she still hopes that Congress will pass the NASA authorization bill before the end of this year.
“We are trying to pass NASA’s 2019 Authorization Act,” she said. Cantwell is one of the co-sponsors of the bill, which was backed by the Trade Commission almost a year ago but has yet to pass the Senate.
Cantwell said she believes, despite lack of progress, the bill could still be passed by Congress by the end of this year. “I hope that we will be able to complete this authorization. I can̵7;t promise you it will be done in one session of Congress, but if not, I assure you it will be complete by early 2021, ”she said.
Cantwell did not elaborate on the issues that prevented the bill’s passage, but Capitol Hill sources said one obstacle was that the language in the bill forced NASA to reconsider the relationships that its contractors they are with China. Some objected that the language could affect companies like SpaceX, which are not affiliated with China but run by Elon Musk, whose electric car maker Tesla, has operations. business there.
That clause was backed up by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Who pressed NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine about it during Senate Trade Commission hearing on Sept. 30. However, Gardner lost the second term on November 3. the election.
However, that provision is only part of a broader bill that addresses a wide range of NASA programs. “What we are trying to do is ensure that NASA priorities are fully authorized and funded,” says Cantwell.
That includes NASA’s Artemis moon exploration program. Cantwell says she’s widely supportive of the program. “I am very excited about this program,” she said. “We’re very excited about Artemis in general.”
However, she has pre-booked NASA’s schedule to bring humans back to the moon by 2024. “Although there’s a lot of excitement in Congress, there hasn’t always been consensus about the times. The point and time frame we should achieve this Artemis goal, ”she said. The return to 2024 “will require a large amount of resources,” she warns.
“I think we’ll ask our NASA administrator and others to set an exact timeframe for what it will actually take us back to the moon,” she said. The bill itself does not set a clear 2024 goal for humans to return to the moon, saying instead that NASA will “cooperate with international and commercial partners to establish a surface discovery operation. sustainable moon by 2028 ”.
The comments are notable as it is increasingly likely that former Vice President Joe Biden will be elected president. Although some states’ results have yet to be decided, the trend of returning votes is in Biden’s favor.
Operation Biden says little about space policy beyond a paragraph of the Democratic Party forum on NASA published in July. “We support NASA’s work to bring Americans back to the moon and further to Mars, taking the next step in the discovery of our solar system,” the platform claims. However, it did not confirm its current target for the year 2024 for humans to return to the moon.
That suggests to space policy observers that the Biden administration will continue the Artemis program, but at a slower rate. “I don’t think Artemis will be canceled. I also don’t think it will make more money than it currently gets, ”said Wendy Whitman Cobb, professor at the United States Air Force’s Advanced School of Aerospace and Space Studies, who focuses on the research itself. book space, said during a discussion. later at the SPARC conference.
“I think the 2024 deadline is always a bit tough, given the history of large-scale space projects,” she added. “The Biden administration might feel a little better letting that happen a little bit.”
She speculates that the Biden administration may support more commercialization efforts, with efforts as Biden is vice president in the Obama administration to promote crew commercial programs. However, she does not think there will be significant changes in the Artemis program beyond its funding limits.
“There is a kind of dynamics that has evolved. It’s hard to speed up, but also hard to slow it down at this point.