Although originally planned for 2028, NASA says it can accelerate the next Moon mission to 2024 and it wants more money to do it. NASA and the White House have requested a $1.6 billion budget amendment to fly the so-called Artemis mission four years sooner than planned. The project is named after the Greek goddess of the Moon and Apollo’s twin sister.
Vice President Mike Pence announced the accelerated schedule in March, but offered no detail, especially budget numbers. NASA’s current allocation is $21 billion and of the additional $1.6 billion being requested, $651 million would be used to accelerate work on the delayed Space Launch System booster and the new manned spacecraft, Orion, which would ride atop the stack. The vehicles were scheduled to fly in 2020, but that date remains uncertain, according to NASA.
The new Moon project includes plans for a small lunar orbiting space station called Gateway. Astronauts could prep and stage in Gateway before descending to the lunar surface. With Artemis getting the rush-rush, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine says the agency might opt for a scaled-down Gateway instead, consisting of a small power and habitat module. The president’s original budget request included $824 million for Gateway, but the amendment reduces that to $503 million.