NASA’s head doubled down on his request to Congress to fund a second moon-landing demonstration for its Artemis program.
Administrator Bill Nelson reiterated that NASA needs more money to promote competition in its Artemis program, which seeks to send the first woman and first person of color to the moon by 2024, during a Tuesday hearing of the Senate Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee.
The program, introduced during the Trump administration, would be the first to send humans to the moon since the Apollo missions.
The agency awarded Elon Musk’s SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract in April to develop a commercial human lander for the Artemis program. But NASA is looking to fund a second challenger to bring about “the best cost and the most efficient route,” Nelson said.
The administration requested $24.8 billion for NASA in fiscal 2022—a $1.5 billion increase from this year’s level. The request didn’t include Nelson’s appeal to fund a second lander demonstration, which he previously made during a May House Appropriations subcommittee hearing.
Nelson suggested that an additional $11 billion be provided in legislation to implement President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan. Subcommittee Chair Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said that legislation isn’t in the committee’s jurisdiction.
NASA has been scrutinized for its frequent schedule delays. A May Government Accountability Office report found the agency’s adherence to cost estimates and schedules deteriorated for the fifth year in a row.
The Artemis program is currently at a standstill. SpaceX’s competitors, the Jeff Bezos-founded Blue Origin LLC and Leidos Holdings Inc.-owned Dynetics, filed protests with the government’s internal watchdog over NASA’s award process.
“When you’re pressing the edge of the envelope, often you get delays,” Nelson said. “But the goal is still 2024.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Sadek in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org