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Despite being told to do so in an 2014 GAO report, NASA has still not developed a budget to determine what it would cost to use SLS for any future beyond-Earth-orbit missions.
Worse, NASA says it doesn’t have to do this.
The government report notes that it previously recommended to NASA and Congress that costs of the first (and subsequent) human missions be calculated and disclosed three years ago in 2014. Since then, the report says, a senior official at NASA’s Exploration Systems Development program, which manages the rocket and spacecraft programs, replied that NASA does not intend to establish a baseline cost for Exploration Mission 2 because it does not have to.
This response must have struck investigators with the General Accountability Office—Congress’ auditing service—as a bit in-your-face. Later in the report, the director of acquisition and sourcing management for the accountability office, Cristina Chaplain, notes that, “While later stages of the Mars mission are well in the future, getting to that point in time will require a funding commitment from the Congress and other stakeholders. Much of their willingness to make that commitment is likely to be based on the ability to assess the extent to which NASA has met prior goals within predicted cost and schedule targets.” [emphasis mine]
In other words, NASA expects Congress to give NASA and SLS a blank check, forever. Sadly, based on the behavior of Congress now and in the past two decades, NASA might very well have reasonable expectations here.