House hearing, and budget, raises doubts about 2024 Moon landing

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Two events yesterday increased the likelihood that the Trump administration’s effort to complete a manned Moon landing by 2024 will not happen.

First, at hearings yesterday before the House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee, not only did a top NASA official express skepticism about the 2024 date, several key Democratic lawmakers added their own skepticism about the entire project.

Then, the Democratically-controlled House released a draft continuing resolution which included none of the extra $1.6 billion requested by the Trump administration for the 2024 Moon mission.

At the first link there is much discussion about the issues of Gateway, of using commercial launchers instead of SLS, of funding, and of the endless delays for SLS, of the management problems at SLS/Orion/Gateway. All these issues illustrate the hodgepodge and very disorganized project design that has represented SLS/Orion/Gateway from the beginning. SLS/Orion was mandated by Congress, with no clear mission. Gateway was tacked on later by NASA and the big space contractors building SLS (Boeing) and Orion (Lockheed Martin), with lobbying help from other international space agencies who want a piece of the Gateway action. None of it ever had a clear over-arching goal or concept related to the actual exploration of space. All of it was really only designed to justify pork spending in congressional districts.

As much as the Trump administration wants it, I do not see a path for its 2024 Moon landing. Congress, as presently structured, will not fund it, and SLS and Gateway are simply not the projects designed to make it happen.

The confusion at the hearings over Gateway also suggests that if this project gets going, it will only serve to drive a nail into the coffin of all American manned exploration, as run by our federal government. Too many vested interests are fighting over this boondoggle. In the end I think they will rip it apart and then reshape it into a Frankenstein monster.

The only hope for a real American vibrant manned space effort in the near future still appears to me to reside in the private sector’s own manned projects, which right now means SpaceX and its Starship.



  • Diane Wilson

    Without Gateway, I wonder whether Musk will continue to show interest in the moon.

    Musk has characterized SpaceX as a “transportation company,” so it remains to be seen whether anyone else steps forward with real plans for a lunar mission.

    The one value of a lunar mission as a step toward Mars is that it could be a working laboratory for developing reliable long-term life support systems. ISS has been a long-term habitation, but not without a lot of ongoing support and repairs, and close proximity to Earth for parts and supplies.

  • David K

    If Trump wins re-election he could potentially re-allocate finds from the pentagon like he did with the wall and buy rides from SpaceX / Blue Origin, bypassing congress. I think you could argue that getting back to the moon first is a matter of national security.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Musk’s interest in the Moon has zero to do with Gateway. The notional mission architecture for Moon-bound Starships doesn’t include a stop at Gateway on either the inbound or outbound legs of the trip.

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