NASA needs new funding by February for 2024 moon landing, administrator says

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Sept. 30 (UPI) — Congress must approve more funding for NASA’s Artemis moon program in the next few months if a 2024 landing is to occur, agency administrator Jim Bridenstine testified Wednesday.

“If we get to February of 2021 without an appropriation, that’s going to really put the brakes on our ability to achieve a moon landing by as early as 2024,” Bridenstine told members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee in Washington, D.C.

The space agency seeks more than $7 billion for Artemis in the current fiscal year, which begins Thursday, and nearly $28 billion through 2025. The House of Representatives has approved a bill for the new fiscal year that cut billions from NASA’s request.

Bridenstine and the Trump Administration argue that a rapid return to the moon within the five-year timeframe announced in 2019 is the only way to overcome political resistance and inflated budgets due to delays.

Bridenstine noted that the committee has provided bipartisan support for Artemis and other missions.

Among the other priorities are funding to develop private commercial space stations as an eventual replacement for the International Space Station and funding to establish a precise global framework to track the growing problem of orbital space debris.

The most efficient method for funding would be an authorization act to codify commitment to the 2024 moon landing over the next several years, Bridenstine said.

NASA is working toward a November 2021 uncrewed test launch of the powerful Artemis rocket, the Space Launch System or SLS, Bridenstine said. That rocket is on schedule for an eight-minute test firing in November at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, he said.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, asked Bridenstine what he’s doing to inspire Americans, especially young people, to become involved in the moon program.

Bridenstine responded that NASA