Trump: $1.6 Billion More to Jump Start Human Lunar Program

In theory, this is a supplemental appropriation request on top of NASA’s $21.5 billion budget for FY 2019. However, Eric Berger of Ars Technica says the money will come from offsets, i.e., reductions, in other parts of NASA’s budget. That will not go over well with Congress.

Correction: The $1.6 billion is for FY 2020 which starts on Oct. 1. Congress rarely passes a budget before the fiscal year begins, so NASA might have to get by with a continuing resolution that keeps spending at the FY 2019 level. In previous years, NASA has operated like that for months.

It seems landing humans on the moon by 20124 is an important national priority. But, the Trump Administration isn’t really that serious about funding it properly. So, will this actually happen or will it be another stillborn lunar plan for which there is no political will to actually fund.

  • Jeff Smith

    Webb understood that NASA had other priorities beyond just the Moon AND that the agency needed to have a future beyond the Moon landings. He understood the agency and the Congress who would appropriate the funds, so he refused to allow science to be gutted to pay for Apollo expenses. As a non-technical guy, he had keen insight into how the agency and legislature worked and how they could continue working after he left.

  • Emmet Ford

    It seems landing humans on the moon by 2024 is an important national priority.

    It certainly seems that somebody thinks that. But the dear leader does not cut the checks. Maybe he can declare another national emergency and pull some more protection money out of the Defense Department.

    Granted, 1.6 billion is a small enough increment such that if the Democratically controlled House blocks it, they can plausibly be labelled as obstructionist. So that’s a savvy move by someone in the administration. But I don’t see how 1.6 billion is enough. Perhaps they are thinking they can ratchet that number up over the 5 years, boiling the frog. But NASA has made a point of saying that they are going to need substantial funding up front so that they can spend the funds efficiently. This looks like not enough money and not when they need it. So no ‘Muricans on the moon in 2024. Oh well.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    If the Congress goes along, I’d take that to indicate that the policy would survive a change in administration. By my reading of the next two years, this is going pretty much nowhere. However, the current NASA admin was a member of The House, he knows what has to be done and how it’s supposed to happen. So we’ll see.

  • ThomasLMatula

    On the other hand that $1.6 billion will go far with a commercial lander like the Blue Moon or from another private firm.

  • TheBrett

    Eric Berger of Ars Technica is saying the rumors are it will come out of the Pell Grant program. Which . . . probably means it won’t pass the House.

    So, will this actually happen or will it be another stillborn lunar plan for which there is no political will to actually fund.

    I guess that will just put us back to where we were, with sporadic SLS flights and some type of replacement space station for Orion to travel to.

  • Emmet Ford

    Sure, but we are talking about the notional stretched Blue Moon lander with a notional ascent vehicle as it’s payload, descending from and ascending to a notional lunar gateway, which they reached on an Orion riding atop the troubled boondoggle that we call SLS. The notional 1.6 seems to me to be oversubscribed.

    Scepticism is warranted, and that reality will probably be welcomed by a House that is less than eager to deliver an election year triumph to its nemesis.

  • savuporo

    Commercial crew is at 7 billion and counting. It’s delusional to think you somehow get a lunar lander for fifth of that

  • therealdmt

    Commercial Crew was/is for 2 separate crewed systems, after initially supporting 3 (and to some extent 4) providers.

    Cut that down to 1 provider with no contract for 6 guaranteed flights
    (each) after certification and, like with Apollo’s LM, insist on no
    engine out capability, and $1 billion a year for five years might do it.

    Meanwhile, the Gateway, which was already being budgeted for, will be stripped down to a bare minimum. On the other hand, SLS spending is to go up…

    Well, I have no quantitative analysis of if the numbers will work, but it
    seems like a minimalistic program just to recreate Apollo 11 (2 people
    walking on the surface for a few hours, one flag planted, photos taken
    and footprints left behind) might be possible for a few billion a year
    extra (on top of what was already being budgeted for) over the course
    of half a decade.

    Also, this 1.6 billion is just the first year’s request to get things rolling. After requirements are set and contracts issued, the amounted requested will surely go up at least some. The question is, will the House (and to a lesser extent, the Senate) agree

  • redneck

    The problem is that it is between difficult and impossible to mandate efficiency and integrity. So you are right in a business as usual scenario. If an organization arises somewhere in the world that is pay for results only, you would be surprised how far $1.6 billion would go.

    Short duration life support for the Dragon 1 type thinking would have left billions for other items.

  • Not Invented Here

    Wrong. The development funding for Commercial Crew is only $4.7B ($1.5B for CCDev1/2 + CCiCap, $2B for Boeing CCtCap, $1.2B for SpaceX CCtCap), the rest of the money are for the 6 operational missions.

    Total Commercial Crew development funding for SpaceX is $1.7B, so $1.6B for one commercial lander is not at all delusional, it’s right on the money.

  • Lee

    “It seems landing humans on the moon by 20124”

    Pretty sure we’ll either have people on the Moon by 20124 or will have decided there is no reason to do so…. 🙂

  • The Other Dr. Phil

    It should be clear why Blue Origin is doing Blue Moon…

  • ThomasLMatula

    The Pell Grant Program has a $9 billion surplus, why not put it to use creating jobs for STEM graduates?

  • ThomasLMatula

    Especially since Blue Origin is building Blue Moon with or without NASA. And then you have the wild card of the SpaceX Starship.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yep, if President Trump wants something the Democrats will say no, even if they have said yes to it in the past. It will be interesting to see how the Democrats spin the no this time around.

  • duheagle

    While it remains to be seen if the notional extra $1.6 billion for Artemis in 2020 is to materialize via reductions in non-NASA areas of the budget or not, it would seem that Mr. Berger got things wrong anent it coming via reductions in other NASA line items. So Doug’s conclusion that the Trump administration is not serious about Artemis seems to be a missed call as well.

  • Emmet Ford

    Perhaps they will point out that the date was moved up on a whim for purely political purposes and that
    they do not share the president’s purely political objectives. The plain truth will serve well enough in this instance, though they are politicians, so stating the plain truth may not occur to them.

  • duheagle

    Yes. Because Bezos wants to industrialize space and that means going to the Moon for raw materials. Also, being filthy rich – and getting filthier all the time – he doesn’t have to go hat-in-hand to the government for either permission or money. When he started Blue Moon, speaking the word “Moon” in public was pretty much a hanging offense at NASA. Now things have – thank goodness – changed and he might even get some government money for Blue Moon. But he didn’t start the project knowing that Trump and Pence would want to go to the Moon in 2016 or even that they’d be elected.

    Unless you believe Bezos is either psychic or a time traveller.

  • duheagle

    The Artemis program is not being pursued strictly for Trump-Pence bragging rights, though that’s hardly an illegitimate purpose in the minds of most politicians. It’s also being pursued as an effort toward explaining to a sleepy and do-nothing federal agency that it enjoys no open-ended right to get lots of money and to produce nothing in return. That, of course, is also a political purpose and one that is brag-ready as well.

  • therealdmt

    Pretty simple: No

    “We’re $22 Trillion (with a big ‘T’) in debt and counting. Yes, we agree to go to the Moon, but not to accelerate it to an artificial deadline which just so happens to coincide with the 2024 election. If you want to accelerate the established program, raise taxes to pay for it. Otherwise, 2028 it was, and 2028 it will be. Next.”

  • therealdmt

    Actually, he kinda looks like one of the Travelers from Fringe https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1a586bca4f493bb1e5606c4e6b6c558bb653d7d3397f7002c3fe9fab3f4630d3.jpg

    Prolly nothing to worry about, though 😀

  • Emmet Ford

    What you describe may well be a motivation of Bridentsine, but it is surely not a concern of Trump, who is concerned about only one thing, himself. The first time he did a press op with some astronauts, his only interest was whether NASA could put people on Mars before the end of his second term. Artemis grew out of this myopic self-absorption. This is why he is unconcerned about climate change. He knows he won’t live to see the worst of it. He has admitted as much publicly. As far as the dear leader is concerned, everything that matters is all about Trump.

  • duheagle

    Trump, in case you hadn’t noticed, has children. Also grandchildren. So his concerns are not totally self-centered.

    As to Climate Change (TM), if Trump actually thought Ivanka’s kids and Barron were all going to roast in their own juices by mid-century, he’d be all-in against Global Warming (TM).

    But, as the saying goes, don’t try to kid a kidder. Trump didn’t get where he is without some pretty accurate BS detectors and he has – quite accurately – assessed Climate Change (TM) as a scam.

  • Emmet Ford

    The rich think they can dodge the effects of climate change.

  • duheagle

    Since there isn’t any catastrophic climate change in sight, they’re right.