NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has suggested that the agency will need $20 billion to $30 billion over the next five years to fund the United States return to the moon. The amount would be an increase of between 18% and 27% of the agency’s budget for 2019.
The country’s push to return humans to the moon began in December 2017 with President Donald Trump signing a space policy directive directing NASA to focus on the endeavour. Initial estimates projected the agency would be able to launch the first mission by no earlier than 2028. However, at the fifth meeting of the National Space Council (NSC) earlier this year, Vice President Mike Pence set NASA the challenge of launching the first mission by 2024, a full four years ahead of schedule.
Following the Vice President’s announcement, many commentators agreed that to achieve the ambitious goal, NASA’s budget would have to receive a significant increase. However, up to this point, there had been little indication of how big an increase would be required. Speaking to CNN Business reporter Rachel Crane, Bridenstine revealed the agency would need $20 billion to $30 billion over five years for the Artemis program.
Although significant, it is a relatively modest amount when compared to the only comparable program in the agency’s history, Apollo. By 1973, the country had spent an estimated 25,4 billion on the program, which when adjusted for inflation is more than $160 billion.
Currently, NASA has only requested an additional $1.6 billion for Artemis, an amount Bridenstine has described as a “down payment”. Meanwhile, members of Congress have been vocal about the agency submitting a detailed plan for what the program will cost. This most recent budgetary announcement may indicate that Bridenstine and NASA are close.