NEW ORLEANS, La. – This week, leaders from NASA were showing off a big piece of the rocket that will fly the upcoming moon mission.
Both President Trump and NASA leaders say the goal is to put a man and woman on the moon by 2024, but some congressional leaders in charge of funding want to know the total price tag first.
This week in New Orleans, most people got their first look at the newly finished core stage of the Space Launch System rocket.
The four RS-25 engines will power the SLS rocket on the upcoming Artemis moon mission. NASA leaders are aiming to land astronauts on the moon by 2024, but so far, they haven’t named a crew.
“Of all of our 38 astronauts, I’d like to see a select number of them be focused on Artemis specifically,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said.
Over the last year, Bridenstine has been negotiating in Washington, D.C., trying to secure more funding to pay for the mission.
“We have companies right now moving forward without an appropriation, believing at the end, Congress will do the right thing and get an appropriation,” Bridenstine said.
“I don’t think anyone knows the exact cost at this time,” Alabama congressman Robert Aderholt said.
President Trump was asking Congress for $1.6 billion for the Artemis mission. What he got from the Senate was $1.2 billion, including $744 million for human landers. That funding agreement still has to pass the full House. The space subcommittee is chaired by Democrats who say they’re hesitant to provide funding without knowing the total cost.
“And I think it’s crucial that we include the necessary funds to complete the SLS rocket, not just for the moon landing, but for multiple missions,” Rep. Aderholt said.
“We’ve got the commercial lunar payload services program, which is already underway to deliver payloads to the surface of the moon. There’s no way those payloads couldn’t be humans,” Bridenstine said.
The new core stage for the rocket will now head to Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to be tested before being shipped off to Kennedy Space Center ahead of next year’s launch.
The new core stage is part of the Artemis I — an unmanned rocket set to launch next year.
The next big test is the Artemis II, set for 2023. They’ll perform what’s known as moon fly-by. The moon landing will happen as part of the Artemis III.