NASA will honor a request from the Trump administration and spend the next month studying how to return astronauts to the moon’s orbit.
America’s storied space agency will study the feasibility of converting the recent test of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule into a new crewed lunar mission, propelling two astronauts to the moon and back by 2019. The feasibility study should be completed by late March. If the mission is successful, it will be the first flight by an astronaut into deep space since the Apollo Moon-landing era came to a close more than 40 years ago.
“If NASA wants to make the mission politically attractive, an accelerated schedule of this type is required,” Dr. Robert Zubrin, who helped design plans for NASA’s manned mission to Mars, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I’m encouraged by this development. It shows that NASA is responding positively to the challenge posed by SpaceX. Let’s have a race!”
NASA’s previously planned for the test to be an unmanned launch in late 2018, which would send a capsule into a distant lunar retrograde orbit. Making the craft ready to support astronauts will require additional life support systems, display panels, and abort systems.
Zubrin previously told The DCNF that accelerating NASA’s return to the moon could potentially save taxpayers $10 billion dollars in expenses.
NASA already planned to send an unmanned SLS rocket with an Orion capsule to orbit the Moon, but will accelerate the program to send astronauts on the previously unmanned mission in late 2019. One Trump adviser told The Washington Post adding astronauts to the project is intended to be “a clear signal” to the Chinese that the U.S. will retain its dominance in space.
Trump seemingly wants to return U.S. astronauts to the Moon and then send them on to Mars, which will require the giant Space Launch System (SLS) rocket currently being debated in Congress. The president vowed to “unlock the mysteries of space” in his inaugural address, lending credence to reports that he was exploring sending humans to Mars in a private meeting with billionaire Elon Musk.
Leaked documents say Trump wants NASA to launch a “rapid and affordable” lunar mission to the moon by 2020, build privately-operated space stations and assist “the large-scale economic development of space.”
“NASA’s new strategy will prioritize economic growth and the organic creation of new industries and private sector jobs, over ‘exploration’ and other esoteric activities,” states a summary of NASA’s agency action plan obtained by Politico. “Done correctly, this could create a trillion-dollar per year space economy, dominated by America.”
Experts have long suspected Trump’s space agenda will fund exploration with robotic probes and human astronauts diverted from NASA’s global warming science programs. Billionaire space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow thinks Trump could double NASA’s budget.
Trump has yet to name a NASA director, but available information identifies Oklahoma Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine, a former Navy pilot, as the top contender.
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