Artemis — the new name for NASA’s initiative to put humans back on the moon by the end of 2024 — may be defined by its new, flashy goal, but as Loren Grush writes, it has an up-hill battle to even have a shot at the lunar surface:
NASA’s first big hurdle is a political one. Over the next few months, the space agency must sell this initiative to Congress, which controls the government’s budget. Lawmakers may like the idea of putting women on the Moon, but they may not want to raid the budgets of other federal programs to help NASA achieve its goal. Plus, Congress has to buy into NASA’s blueprint for this lunar return mission, and lawmakers will be taking a close look at how the space agency plans to get there.
On Monday, the White House and NASA announced an extra $1.6 billion in funding for the agency, but the source of the money is worrisome, as reported by Jill Colvin:
Under a budget amendment sent to Congress Monday evening, the administration would use an additional $1.9 billion in surplus Pell Grant money to fund other budget priorities, including an infusion of new cash for NASA “so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!” President Donald Trump tweeted.
Officials insisted the re-allocation of the Pell Grant money would have no impact on those currently receiving grants, which help low-income students pay for college.
“This does not cut any spending for Pell Grant programs as the budget continues to ensure all students will get their full Pell Grant and keeps the program on sound fiscal footing,” Office of Management and Budget spokesman Wesley Denton said in a statement.
Enrollment in the program has declined since 2011, leading to a surplus of nearly $9 billion, according to the budget office.
That’s certainly complicated to consider, and it means that Congress may have a hard time approving it, but it may not matter, as the $1.6 billion is probably just the start of what it will take to put boots on the lunar surface, and much of the needed hardware is nowhere near ready — and may require more time than the deadline allows.
I don’t think Artemis is impossible, but I can’t help but think the nation is not ready to get behind it like it was in the 1960s when Kennedy challenged us to go the moon the first time.