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New Democrat head of House subcommittee covering NASA says he supports Artemis

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.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Phill O

    No government manager, wants a project to end. Their importance lies in how many people are “Under” them. It was impressive how well people operated (professionally) near the end of the Apollo program.

  • Lee Stevenson

    “with the present incompetents in charge in Washington”… To be fair, I think it’s a little too early in JB’s presidency to make that kind of comment! I completely agree with you however regarding the Moon… Realistically there is only the US that can compete with China in the current space race. The communist Chinese system is able to make 5, 10 and even 50 year plans ,whereas western democracies seem to maliciously destroy the previous leaders plans on a regular basis. The fact that Matt Cartwright is in favour of at least continuing the Artemis program, but within a more realistic timeline is a good sign. The race for space should be bi-partisan, as it is essentially non political ( the pork not withstanding!)

  • Lee: I wasn’t entirely clear. So you understand, I was not referring specifically to Biden or even the Democrats. I was referring to the entire Washington crowd, Democrats and Republicans, elected and unelected, who have made so few good policy decisions in the past four decades it is hard to name the few that worked.

    As for the new Artemis timeline, it is not more realistic, it is designed to be so slow that no goals are ever met, much like SLS and Orion were before Trump became president.

  • Dick Eagleson

    The Chinese aren’t going to own the Moon. The PRC may not even exist a decade hence. If anyone owns the Moon it’s going to be Elon Musk and SpaceX. Slowing Artemis back down will simply clear the decks for an all-SpaceX Moon push.

  • Lee Stevenson

    Sorry Bob, I misconstrued your post… Your explanation makes it much clearer, and can I say, it’s not just the US…. the “swamp” extends worldwide. I just paid 30 Euros import duty on a 100 euro telephone for my lad sent from England. Half my rage is that neither Sweden nor England use the Euro, the other half of my anger is that the right wing government in the UK has had 4 years since the vote for Brexit to get trade deals in place inside the EU… They have failed and in my opinion are not fit for purpose and should all be dismissed!
    @Dick Eagleson, resting on the laurels of the US’s superiority is exactly why China has the advantage. I am a socialist, but by no means a communist, however those guys have had a slow and steady space program for decades now. Just lately they have proved they have the tech to perform complex operations outside LEO, ( all the more impressive that they have been performed autonomously! ). If your hopes for the US winning this space race rest on your hope the PRC will fall, remember, they can create a multi decade plan for space exploitation, and can also use tanks to mow down political dissidents. I predict Chinese boots on the moon next, which will give Artemis the kick it needs to go full on NASA/commercial partnership, then the race will really start.

  • Patrick Underwood

    Lee, with regard to the trade deals… you seem to lay the blame solely on the UK. You don’t think the vengeful overlords across the Channel have anything to do with that?

  • Michael G. Gallagher

    I agree with Mr. Egelson. Space X with its reusability will have a good chance of beating the Chinese to the Moon, or at least keeping them company. And maybe, just maybe, Bezos will also get New Glenn up and flying.

  • JEFF Wright

    I support SLS myself

  • mkent

    It costs too much and is badly designed.

    I don’t disagree with this.

    It might fly once or twice, but after that Congress will drop it while keeping Artemis, albeit in a very different form.

    But I do disagree with this. There is no indication that either Congress or the new administration will drop SLS or Orion. Both have had strong bipartisan support since their inception. Obama couldn’t kill them. Garver couldn’t kill them. Bridenstine couldn’t kill them.

    This is not like George Bush’s Space Exploration Initiative, Dubya’s Vision for Space Exploration, or Obama’s Journey to Mars, none of which ever got past the trade study and PowerPoint stage. The fact is that SLS, Orion, and the Gateway are all almost entirely under contract and building hardware with strong political support.

    Going from the ground up, under the Exploration Ground Systems effort the VAB, LC-39B, the crawlerway, and the crawler/transporters have all completed their refurbishments. Mobile Launcher 1 (ML-1) for flights 1-3 is complete and in use, and ML-2 for flights 4 & up is under contract.

    SLS Core Stage 1 (CS-1) is complete and on the test stand. CS-2 is under construction with a June 2022 delivery date. The long lead items for CS-3 are already on order. An undefinitized contract for CS-4 through CS-12 has been signed. In addition, the engines for flights 1-4 are complete, and the engines for flights 5-10 are under contract.

    The solid rocket boosters (SRBs) for flight 1 are complete and being stacked, the boosters for flight 2 are poured, and the boosters for flights 3-8 are under contract. The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) upper stage for flight 1 was complete in June 2017, and the upper stages for flights 2-3 are under contract. The Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) just completed its Critical Design Review (CDR), and the EUSs for flights 4-11 are under contract.

    For Orion, the crew capsule for flight 1 is complete, the capsule for flight 2 is under construction, and the capsules for flights 3-8 are under contract. In addition, the European Service Module (ESM) for flight 1 is complete, the ESMs for flights 2-3 are under construction, and the ESMs for flights 4-5 are under contract.

    For the mini-Gateway needed for the initial landings, the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) has been under contract for a year. The Habitation And Logistics Outpost (HALO) is under contract and recently had first chips. The Gateway Logistics Services contract has been signed, and development of the Dragon XL has begun.

    Finally, the Exploration Extra-vehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) program has developed a lunar surface spacesuit that is now being tested in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, and the three finalists for the Human Landing System (HLS) have completed their preliminary designs and submitted their proposals to NASA for downselect. This HLS downselect is the last major contract action required for Artemis all the way to the initial manned landings.

    I don’t see anyone with the political will to stop this all or change it in any significant way except stretch out the schedule, which was not realistic anyway.

    I think people have gotten so used to NASA producing only trade studies and PowerPoints for anything beyond the space station that they have overlooked the tremendous progress Jim Bridenstine has pushed NASA to make over the last three years. This program is real.

  • Lee Stevenson

    @Patrick Underwood, of course the EU has to shoulder some of the blame for the total lack of trade agreememnts, freedom of movement agreements, border agreements…. the list goes on and on…… However, it has been the UKs elected officials job to get these deals done and dusted in good time, and they have compleatly and utterly failed. This is bad news for the UK. Import and export taxes with the EU will cripple British buisness. A free trade deal will eventualy be beaten out, but not before much damage is done. If anyone else failed so miserably in any other branch, they would have been asked to clear their desks 2 years ago.

  • mkent

    To continue a theme, I think the expanded Gateway for multi-month missions at the moon is a done deal as well.

    NASA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the International Habitat (I-Hab) and the European System Providing Refueling, Infrastructure, and Telecommunications (ESPRIT) modules for the Gateway, and ESA has placed them both under contract with European industry.

    In addition, NASA has signed an MOU with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) for Canadarm 3 and other advanced robotics for the Gateway, and CSA has placed them under contract with Canadian industry.

    Finally, NASA recently signed an MOU with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for advanced life support, communications, and resupply services for the Gateway. The resupply services will be performed by the new Hope Transfer Vehicle (HTV-X) already under development for the ISS and to be launched by the new H-3 launch vehicle. The H-3 just had its rollout and is scheduled to fly this year. The HTV-X is under development and scheduled to fly to the ISS next year.

    Only the Gateway airlock, originally to be built by the Russians, remains to be placed under contract. NASA still hopes to bring the Russians on board, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Japan or India take this module up.

    Since the Canadian and European MOUs involve not just hardware development and delivery but also the requirement for NASA to take their astronauts to the Gateway and, in the case of Canada, to the surface of the moon, I don’t see either the new administration or the Congress drastically altering the path of this program either. Bridenstine got this one all but locked up too (quite ambitious he was in his short tenure at NASA).

  • mrsizer

    resupply services for the Gateway
    which will be in Lunar orbit

    The HTV-X is … scheduled to fly to the ISS
    which is in low Earth orbit

    There seems to be a missing piece.

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