The new Democrat head of the House appropriations subcommittee that covers NASA funding, Matt Cartwright (D-Pennsylvania), appears to support the Artemis program established during the Trump administration, though he has also indicated that he does not favor the timeline imposed by Trump to land a manned mission on the Moon by ’24.
Cartwright’s embrace of Artemis during [a] July 2020 webinar was a change from 2019 when he was one of several members reacting skeptically to a supplemental budget request from the Trump Administration after it unexpectedly accelerated the timeline for putting people back on the Moon from 2028 to 2024. He complained NASA did not even have a cost estimate for the entire effort, yet expected Congress to embrace it.
In 2018, he expressed concern about proposed cuts by the Trump Administration to NASA’s earth and space science activities especially climate programs and WFIRST (now the Roman Space Telescope). He urged NASA to follow the Decadal Surveys produced by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
What his prior views presage now that he chairs the subcommittee remains to be seen. It is widely expected the 2024 deadline will be pushed back, perhaps to the 2028 date NASA originally planned, but Cartwright appears favorably disposed towards the agency overall.
Delaying the Moon landing by SLS forever is the real goal, so the jobs program can be extended without any risks. To actually fly might result in a failure, something that no politician wants.
In the end it will not be SLS anyway that gets Americans back to the Moon. It costs too much and is badly designed. It might fly once or twice, but after that Congress will drop it while keeping Artemis, albeit in a very different form. Instead of having NASA design and build things, the new Artemis will be built by the many companies who were awarded fixed priced contracts during the Trump administration to develop their own hardware as fast as possible and as inexpensively as possible.
The distinction is important, because the latter is more likely to succeed in a reasonable amount of time.
At the same time, with Congress on board and a Democrat in the White House, it is not surprising that the policy is immediately shifting to a slower timeline. Can’t get this done too fast! I must also add that 2028 was not NASA’s original date for its return to the Moon. Before the Trump administration took control of Artemis, NASA had wanted to complete Gateway first, which based on all of NASA’s previous schedules would have pushed a lunar landing into the 2030s. Do not be surprised if this sluggish schedule is reinstated.
In fact, with the present incompetents in charge in Washington, I fully expect China to own the Moon, while U.S. politicians brainlessly dither on how to spend pork.
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