We Return to the Moon, But We Won’t Do It Alone

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Jim Bridenstine Blog
NASA Administrator

When President Donald Trump charged NASA with returning to the Moon, he specified that we partner with industry and other nations to make it possible. Today, on the first day of the 35thSpace Symposium in Colorado we continue our commitment to work with innovative partners as we chart our path forward to the moon in 2024.

The Space Symposium provided me and the NASA team a unique opportunity for dialogue, as it is the first major international public forum to discuss President Trump’s and Vice President Pence’s 2024 moon challenge.  Earlier today I met with several members of the international community to discuss our lunar exploration plans and reiterated NASA’s commitment to move forward to the Moon with strong international collaboration.

NASA’s leadership in low-Earth orbit through the International Space Station (ISS) has created a multi-national space community and fostered an ever-growing commercial space industry. The ISS is an innovation laboratory which has helped NASA pioneer a new private space sector. We are now working on translating these relationships and victories to deep space and the Moon.

In a meeting with Johann-Dietrich Wörner, director general of European Space Agency (ESA), and his team, we highlighted ESA’s and America’s successful collaboration on the ISS, and reviewed plans for the service module for the Orion spacecraft that will take us to the Moon and beyond. We reviewed our new expedited schedule and the key role ESA and the European Service Module will have in achieving those goals. We also discussed future robotic missions to the lunar surface and Mars.

During our meeting with Hiroshi Yamakawa, President of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and his delegation, we shared our commitment to the ISS and discussed additional opportunities on and around the Moon. Additionally, we followed up discussions on learning from our respective asteroid sample return missions, OSIRIS-REx AND Hayabusa-2.

This afternoon, I participated in a historic moment as NASA welcomed the newly formed Hellenic Space Agency (HAS). HSA CEO Dr. Georgios Mantzouris and I signed a joint statement expressing a desire to remain open to opportunities for collaboration, both through Greece’s contributions to the European Space Agency and bilaterally.

I attended a meeting of the National Space Council’s Users’ Advisory Group, an organization focused on coordination, cooperation and technology and information exchange across the nation’s space enterprise. They expressed their efforts to strengthen the space community,

Speaking at the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) I provided remarks on the legal and regulatory uncertainty that must be considered as we solidify our plans for the moon. These considerations must include non-traditional space activities and examining how to establish the legal regimes for authorization and continuing supervision. My conversation called on the experts in the room to further analyze this new frontier of deep space to ensure we have the certainty necessary for all parties to be successful on the Moon.

NASA and its partners are working tirelessly to make our next giant leap possible, and we’re bolstering critical sectors of our aerospace base in the process. Throughout this first day of Space Symposium, I connected with leaders in the space community and reiterated our commitment to our space architecture and the importance of international cooperation in order for all nations to be successful.

  • AdmBenson

    Here’s a plan: Sell Starliners to JAXA and Dreamchasers to ESA. Afterwards, hand them both keys to the ISS and say “Enjoy, it’s all yours!”. That might free up enough money to land astronauts on the moon in 5 years.

  • windbourne

    nope. Still need ISS, or space stations.

  • AdmBenson

    I’d agree if LOP-G was replaced with EOR.

  • mike shupp

    Didn’t Mike Pence stress that AMERICANS were returning to the moon, on an ALL-AMERICAN rocket? By implication, with no pesky foreighners.

  • newpapyrus

    NASA should allow astronauts from other space agencies to join deep space missions to the NRHO Gateway and to the lunar surface by charging foreign space agencies $150 million for every astronaut that participates in a mission. NASA could even allow them to return to Earth with up to 10 kilograms of lunar material for their individual space agencies.

    For a foreign country to be able to send an astronaut to the surface of the Moon for a mere $150 million plus return with 10 kilograms of lunar samples would be an absolute bargain. And NASA could shave off $150 million per mission ($300 million if two foreign astronauts participate in a deep space mission).


  • duheagle

    By your inference, not Pence’s implication. The rocket, in any event, won’t be all-American as the Orion service module is of ESA design and manufacture. That applies whether it reaches space via SLS or via Falcon Heavy. America will be central to the mission, of course – it’s an American mission.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Except the VP Pence did not say it would be with Orion or SLS. Or even NASA astronauts, merely American astronauts. So the door is wide open for a firm like SpaceX to do it.

  • duheagle

    Yes, very much so.

    I think Bridenstine is going to shortly gin up an official second track to SLS – that FH-ICPS-Orion stack he has spoken of several times recently. And I think SpaceX will agree to work on it and do their usual superb job.

    But I also think the first American vehicle to break our half-century lunar dry spell is going to be SH-Starship. It should fly to LEO and back sometime next year, probably several times for increasing durations culminating in some LEO missions with crews. Then comes Dear Moon – quite possibly ahead of the originally announced schedule.

    After that, it’s time to go to the lunar surface in force, preceded by one or more pre-positioned freighters full of goodies to keep said crew busy. Elon could easily give an entire squad of NASA astronauts gigs on such a trip and still have room for a mini-UN of foreign astronauts too. A photo of hulking Luca Parmitano next to some diminutive Japanese woman astronaut on the lunar surface in SpaceX Moon Suits would be epic.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    That is not how it works. NASA ask other foreign Space agencies to participle by barter. The foreign agencies contributed personnel, services & equipment to gain access to a program. NASA gains personnel, services & equipment for no cost.

    For example how much will it cost NASA to developed and build the Orion service module. My conservative guess is about $3B for development plus about $1B per production unit. As of now ESA pays for the development plus 2 operation modules at no cost to NASA.

    The last LOP-G configuration that I look at have about 60% of it’s components contributed by foreign agencies. So the NASA cost estimates for LOP-G is only for the about 40% that is NASA contributed components plus the 3 SLS Block 1 that have hardware funded.

  • Or we could just cancel SLS, implement either the 2-launch rendezvous or Frankenrocket ideas for getting Orion to NRHO, and then we’d have about $2.2B a year to devote to landers and lunar surface support missions.

  • Robert G. Oler

    thats just fantasy…until he cancels SLS its sucking up all the money for any other efort

  • Robert G. Oler

    It should fly to LEO and back sometime next year,

    how is your high going? thats the most ridiculous thing I have read this week

  • redneck

    Apparently you don’t read your own comments.

  • AdmBenson

    Also, LOP-G won’t seem like a good idea anymore if a solar flare causes a medical crisis requiring crew evacuation. NASA used to be seriously worried about the danger from solar flares during the Apollo moon landings.

  • therealdmt

    It should be noted though that NASA never wanted LOP-G to be so big. Extra modules are getting added just so that foreign agencies can contribute a module.

    Meanwhile, what NASA really needed a foreign agency to do was contribute a lunar lander, but nobody stepped up

    (Not that I’m against international collaboration — I’m for it)

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    This will probably be the last red meat cycle. A declared Apollo 8 flight can happen given how close all the hardware is to being operational. Only the United States has systems ready, or even remotely ready, to go to the Moon. We don’t have a lander, and neither does anyone else. If a lander were kludged from existing systems it would still be 5 years from being ready. At best we’ll get an Apollo 8 redux out of this cycle, my bet is we won’t. Maybe even Gateway Station in the next cycle, but not a landing. In the middle of the next administration the option of declaring a Moon initiative with more existing and operating hardware to base it off of can be declared with hope of it crossing the finishing line, or what really should be the beginning line.

    At a minimum we need to see a operational capsule. A capsule that can operate in the interplanetary environment. And while Falcon 9 is fully operational, Falcon H is still showing signs of being less well understood as Falcon 9. As is shown by this weeks events Falcon H can’t be given a launch date and hold it within the time span of a week or more. If we were to go to the Moon next year we’ll need something like Falcon 9 that can hold a launch date. With on orbit assembly of a Dragon 2 with a fully fuelled upper stage of one brand or another, it can be reasonably expected to work out.

  • ThomasLMatula

    As if the Shuttle never had a launch delay. Unfortunately neither SpaceX or NASA is able to control the weather… Also remember, this is the first launch of the upgraded commercial version that is using the F9R Block 5 which is why its performance has been increased by 20 percent over the prototype version, so its understandable they are taking their time with it.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Of course not, it would be far too expensive to do. As usual they try to get by with the minimum contribution possible. It’s sad that although the members of ESA have a collective GDP greater than the U.S. their budget is only 30% that of NASA. No different than NATO…

  • ThomasLMatula

    But would Boeing survive? The analysis are already telling folks to bailout.


    Cramer: Investors should take analyst downgrades of GE, Boeing seriously

    Published Mon, Apr 8 2019 • 6:09 PM EDT Updated Mon, Apr 8 2019 • 9:01 PM EDT

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Prof Matula why do you construct these false narratives all the time. Look at this one. ”

    As if the Shuttle never had a launch delay”. What does that mean? How does that apply to going to the Moon? You realize there are differences between a launch window to a particular LEO and one for going to the Moon right? You have much tighter constraints in a lunar transfer than rendezvous with a satellite. Going to the Moon is more akin to conducting a launch to GEO. You’ll note that quite a lot of the F9 flights to GEO have short launch windows when the payload is massive. Falcon H just needs to fly more so Space X can predict when it really can fly.

    And then this…

    “Unfortunately neither SpaceX or NASA is able to control the weather”. Weather was the delay factor in the past day or so. When was this launch supposed to happen? Take your pick of launch dates for this flight in the past few months.

  • Robert G. Oler

    since I write them and post them I dont need to read them after I post them

  • Robert G. Oler

    we are no where near the infrastructure to go back to the Moon for an Apollo 8 much less an 11. its possible to get it but right now the infrastructure would be very tenuous and expensive

  • P.K. Sink
  • ThomasLMatula

    You mean while they were waiting on Lockheed for the payload to be ready? Lockheed as usual was behind schedule on it. One of the reasons Elon Musk is building the Starlink satellites in house is so they will not suffer for the usual old space delays.

  • redneck


  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Arabsat 6A was delivered in Dec 2017. The initial filings with the gov had this launch scheduled for early March.. The looser projections I can’t verify had launch set for 4th quarter 2018, then early 2019.

  • duheagle

    At my age, sadly, the medication is only likely to increase. But I’ll always keep the good thoughts. Thanks for yours.

  • duheagle

    Well, Mr. B. did say the Moon-boots-in-2024 thing would require extra money. We’ll see if he can successfully squeeze it out of a Democratic House and a less-than-pleased Sen Shelby. Opposition by the former can be painted – correctly – as reflexively political if Trump chooses to raise the public profile of this whole effort. Drawing more attention from the general public is also probably the key to slipping around Shelby, to the extent any such key exists at all.

    There are moves yet to be made and the outcome is far from certain, but it certainly looks to me as though there’s finally some non-trivial wind at the backs of those looking to up-end NASA business-as-usual and get us out of the ditch we’ve driven into anent BEO human spaceflight and exploration.

  • duheagle

    It’s certainly true that a serious financial implosion on Boeing’s part would change the entire calculus of this Moon-in-2024 issue. The coming few weeks and months may prove crucial in all sorts of ways that couldn’t reasonably have been foreseen even as recently as the turn of the new year. Part of living in “interesting times” I guess.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    NASA may find it easier to build a second space station for its Mars trips. Add the foreign made modules to that.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Well, Mr. B.
    say the Moon-boots-in-2024 thing would require
    extra money. We’ll see if he can successfully squeeze it out of a
    Democratic House and a less-than-pleased Sen Shelby.>>>

    LOL why should more money be given to a program that refuses to make the hard political choices…there is enough money to go back to the Moon using commercial sources IF SLS and gateway are cancelled.

    but if that cannot be done then why through more money after bad

  • Robert G. Oler

    LOL Boeing wont need a bailout. the only nice thing about the mAX problems is that my retirement account has gone up about 1/2 million in stock 🙂 asI’ve been able to buy more at the company discount

  • ThomasLMatula

    I think you have a typo. Don’t you mean December 2018? And delivering a satellite to the Cape on a particular date doesn’t it’s ready to fly on that date. It needs to be inspected to make sure it survived the trip, so add a couple months.

    Yes, it was scheduled for early March, but as the article I posted noted the Dragon2 DM1 for NASA was being set up on the pad then. Remember, SpaceX was expecting to fly it in January. So the FH had to wait until it launched, then the pad had to be reconfigured, including adding addition brackets for holding the rocket down before the FH could be rolled out.

    This is why complaints around rockets not being turned around in 24 hours are meaningless. You need to have both payloads and the pad turned around in that time frame as well. A launch pad is not like a runway that could be clears in a minute or so for the next flight. And if I recall it takes 2-3 for the USAF reset the launch tracking equipment at Eastern Range.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    You are mistaken on a couple of things.

    The Eastern range is capable of a 24 hour turn around for launchers equipped with the AFTS termination system. Which is currently operational with the SpaceX Falcon 9.

    The next Cargo Dragon flight to the ISS is launching from pad SLC-40.

  • therealdmt

    Totally agree

  • ThomasLMatula

    Thanks, that is good they are now able to turn the range around faster, I know folks worried about that being a bottleneck to more frequent launch. If SpaceX are using SLC-40 then that should clear SLC-39a for the abort test. Any word on when NASA will approve it?

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Nope, not a typo, read the article provided in the link dated in 2017. The tests you describe were conducted in early 2018. There’s recoverable articles hinting that the satellite was ready by mid 2018 with launch in 4th quarter that year.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    The SpX CRS-17 Cargo Dragon flight is schedule for April 26th around 5:55 AM EDT. Should wake up the locals with the dual sonic booms when the core fly back to LZ-1 just after 6 AM.

  • Lee

    Musk is the one touting that he will get to 24 hour turnaround. No one else. So far it looks extremely unlikely. There have been multiple opportunities for SX to turn around a booster in less than a month for use on a subsequent mission. They have yet to do so. If they can’t get turnaround down to under a month, I don’t think it is logical to think they will ever get down to 24 hours. I’d love to be proven wrong, but with each passing launch, the odds look worse and worse. And to be clear, this has NOTHING to do with payload schedules or pad schedules. If SX wanted to show quick turnaround of a first stage, they have had opportunities to do so. They have not, which tells me they can’t. At least not yet, and probably not ever.

  • ThomasLMatula

    I did read it, did you? The satellite shipped out for testing was the Hellas-Sat4 which was launched in February on an Ariane 5. The Arabsat 6a wasn’t shipped out for testing until a couple of months later. So the time from it was shipped out by Lockheed to when the launch service provider had it to launch was about the same (14 months) for both, so you link just proves what I wrote.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    You are correct that I switched the two satellites in my reading of the article.

  • duheagle

    Prompt cancellation of both SLS and Gateway is richly deserved, but a frontal assault isn’t always the best way to take an objective. If a modestly-priced alternate track can be stood up, the implication is both that the new overall plan is serious and that – also by implication – the non-performing stuff can be cancelled when it fails to make deadlines. It’s a flanking move.

  • Robert G. Oler

    LOL …so when does this flanking move actually do something ie cancel SLS and Gateway? LOL

  • duheagle

    Arabsat 6A wasn’t delivered to the Cape in 2017. The linked article just says it had finished assembly and would be entering a long test phase. The last line of the article notes that delivery is expected to the launch site in 3Q 2018.

    And Arabsat had its own additional tests performed once the bird was in-hand. There’s an article over at Space News based on an interview with Arabsat’s tech boss in which he says, “We were scheduled about a month ago, [but] we had to do more checks and quality assurance stuff with the satellite.”

  • duheagle

    According to Spaceflight Now, that CRS 17 mission is scheduled for SLC-40. It’s one of three F9 missions scheduled between now and when the FH STP-2 mission flies in June. Or maybe four if that Starlink deployment rumored for May also flies. If it does it will probably do so from Vandy as will the Radarsat triplets for Canada, also in May.

    Amos 17 is also scheduled for May and will almost certainly depart from SLC-40, though that isn’t yet specified. That would be poetic justice under the circumstances.

    If STP-2 flies in early June, SpaceX could leave LC-39A in FH trim between now and then and change it back to F9 trim in time to launch the in-flight abort test of D2 later in June, then the first crew delivery mission with D2 in July.

  • duheagle

    As I noted previously, one of the reasons for this was Arabsat wanting to do additional testing and QA on the bird. Then there was what Matula said about the scheduling of pad changeovers anent the DM-1 mission for D2. As launch delays go, the delays attending Arabsat 6A have been pretty small beer.