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NASA Puts a Price On a 2024 Moon Landing: $35 Billion

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Nearly 10 months after Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, the space agency has estimated how much its Artemis Program will cost. NASA says it will need an additional $35 billion over the next four years — on top of its existing budget — to develop a Human Landing System to get down to the Moon’s surface from lunar orbit while also accelerating other programs to make the 2024 date. NASA’s human spaceflight chief, Doug Loverro, shared this number Monday at Johnson Space Center, as the Trump White House released its fiscal year 2021 budget. It calls for a big increase in NASA’s budget, 12 percent over last year’s budget request, with a top-line number of $25.2 billion.

The biggest increase will go toward the Human Landing System, $3.37 billion in fiscal year 2021 alone. NASA says, if funded by Congress, this would mark the first time the United States has directly spent money on a lunar lander since the Apollo program in the 1960s. The human spaceflight budget also funds a small space station in orbit around the Moon, called the Lunar Gateway. This is a sizable budget request and, other NASA programs aside, represents the kind of funding the space agency needs if it is to make progress toward landing humans on the Moon in the mid-2020s. The president’s budget also supports a lunar program that does meaningful things on the Moon, providing hundreds of millions of dollars to study the extraction of ice from the lunar poles and establishing a habitat on the surface. “In contrast to a recent authorization bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, the White House budget proposes using lunar landers developed via public-private partnerships, with contractors investing in their own landers,” the report adds. “Those landers would also be launched on privately developed rockets, helping to contain costs of the Artemis Program.”

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