It was only a little more than one month ago that Vice President Mike Pence gave NASA a bold new direction—a goal of landing humans back on the Moon by 2024. Be urgent, he told the space agency. Work with purpose. We can, and must, do better as a nation in space, he said.
But in the weeks since Pence’s speech in Huntsville, Alabama, the reality of space policy has begun to settle in. For starters, it won’t be cheap to return to the Moon. Moreover, elements of NASA’s bureaucracy have already begun to resist the accelerated schedule and pressure the White House to hew to existing plans. And politically, the goal may well be a non-starter in a divided Congress.
For the last month, NASA has been working with the White House Office of Management and Budget to develop an amendment to President Trump’s budget request for fiscal year 2020, which will seek additional funding for the accelerated Moon program. The amendment may come out this week, or it could be delayed further as wrangling continues. When it is released, the amendment will provide our first clear indication of how much bringing forward a lunar landing from NASA’s originally planned date, 2028, to 2024 would cost.