/ Mars or the Moon? It’s a debate that has bedeviled NASA for decades.
The Artemis Program also emphasized that NASA should be one of many customers, instead of the sole customer. It placed an emphasis on private investment in rockets and spacecraft — asking contractors to put more skin in the game. By opting for fixed-price contracts for the Human Landing System instead of cost-plus deals, the Artemis Program attempted to obtain services at lower costs while also giving contractors incentive to deliver on time.
The lunar plans should utilize “the Orion vehicle and an integrated lunar landing system carried on an Exploration Upper Stage-enhanced Space Launch System for the human lunar landing missions.
The Gateway to Mars shall not be required for the conduct of human lunar landing missions . The net effect of this is to shut down all potential competition and cost savings for the lunar lander. It is particularly telling that there is only one company — Boeing — that has proposed building an integrated lunar lander, has the contract for the Exploration Upper Stage, and is building core stages for the Space Launch System rocket. Boeing has also tried to minimize use of the Gateway. With the House bill, legislators seem to be trying to take NASA’s human exploration program and give it over to the Boeing Company, going back to an era of cost-plus contracting. What about Mars? Some spaceflight advocates have cheered the legislation, as it refocuses NASA’s human spaceflight defined on Mars. More likely, the House legislation returns NASA to the nebulous “
Journey to Mars
“days of the Obama administration, which talked about sending humans to Mars in the s without ever putting out concrete plans or providing the requisite funding .
Pretty much everyone in the spaceflight community agrees that it would be amazing to see humans set foot on Mars. But it is hard to believe the House is serious about this activity unless it doubles the human exploration budget and actually requires that funding go to the big technical challenges, like landing large vehicles on Mars, surface habitats, power on Mars, and more. That is absent from this bill.
Effectively, this probably would consign NASA to another decade of spending billions of dollars on “capabilities” such as the Space Launch System without actually sending astronauts anywhere beyond low-Earth orbit. Feedback
NASA’s Advisory Council has been warmly supportive of the Artemis Plan proposed by the White House for a lot of the reasons described above— It provides the agency with a clear goal and timeline, involves both commercial and traditional aerospace, and moves beyond the “flags and footprints” of Apollo to something more sustainable.
The The Chairman of the Council’s Human Exploration and Operations Committee, Wayne Hale, said he did not want to get ahead of his committee members when it came to the House legislation and what it would mean for NASA. However, he did tell Ars, “The proposed authorization bill is disappointing.”
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation was more blunt in a statement issued Sunday night: “As written, the NASA Authorization bill would not create a sustainable space exploration architecture and would instead set NASA up for failure by eliminating commercial participation and competition in key programs. As NASA and the White House have repeatedly stated, any sustainable space exploration effort must bring together the best of government and commercial industry to achieve a safe and affordable 38 st century space enterprise. ” And Homer Hickam, a former NASA engineer and the author of Rocket Boys , commented
, “If this or anything like it is approved, I will resign from the National Space Council’s User Advisory Group. After years of me and so many others urging NASA to get out of LEO and go back to the moon and this time to stay, it would be too much to bear to now watch at close range it being ruined by a Mars fantasy, probably while other nations make a lunar land rush. ”
The House Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Technology will hold a hearing Wednesday to mark up this legislation. Further discussions will take place on February , when the White House releases its
budget request, which will contain a five-year funding plan for Artemis along with a request for Congress to fund it.