NASA has a new leader, but does not plan to move things.
Instead, Bill Nelson is keeping his eye on the same awards as his predecessor, Jim Bridenstein: sending astronauts to the moon and Mars.
Nelson, a three-term US senator from Florida who boarded the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986, was sworn in as the new NASA administrator on Monday.
Their plan is primarily to roll the ball. During the confirmation hearing, Nelson told Congress that he wanted NASA to achieve its most ambitious goal – sending astronauts to the lunar surface and, eventually, to Mars. He advocated a renewed focus on climate-change research, which historically has been a large part of NASA’s directive but was featured under the Trump administration.
“The space program requires continuity of purpose,” Nelson said in a written testimony to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. For consistency, he said, he would like to work with Bridenstein and “get his advice.”
This consistency may leave NASA with frequent swipelases with the new administration. President George W. Bush first asked NASA to return to the moon in 2005. Five years later, President Barack Obama shifted the focus to Mars. The Trump administration to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024: back to the moon, with a tight deadline. NASA was planning in advance.
“If you ask me what my vision is for NASA’s future, it is up to us to continue to explore the sky with humans and machines,” Nelson told the Senate committee, of which he was the first Was a member, on April 21 during a confirmation hearing. “There is a lot of excitement.”
Astronauts sending to the moon and back to mars
NASA still hopes to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 – no achievement has been completed since 1972. Nelson is on board, even though the timeline is very ambitious. NASA’s Office of the Inspector General has recently scheduled a 2024 landing “highly unlikely”.
“I think you might be pleased that we’re trying to follow the timetable, but recognize that with some hard reality, this place is tough,” Nelson told the Senate committee.
NASA plans to launch an Astronaut crew inside the Orion spaceship, using which the mega-rocket agency is currently developing, called the Space Launch System. Once in lunar orbit, Orion will mate with a lander. Two astronauts will board the plane and then land on the lunar surface.
NASA recently awarded SpaceX a contract for that lander. Elon Musk’s rocket company intends to convert its planned starship mega-spaceship into a lunar lander. But NASA was expected to hire two contractors instead of one, so the decision prompted SpaceX’s competitors – Dynamics and Blue Origin – to file complaints. While things are being sorted out, NASA told SpaceX to stop working on the project.
NASA cited a lack of funding from Congress when it decided to award a single contract, and promised that there would be a follow-up contest. Nelson stood with that statement, stating that contracts would be contested to send the first astronauts to Mars.
“Competition is always better than sole sourcing, because you can achieve efficiency and you get a lower price,” he told the Senate committee.
NASA aims to launch its first Mars-based astronaut mission in the 2030s.
‘You can’t reduce climate change unless you can measure it’
During his hearing, Nelson defended the White House’s request for a $ 2.3 billion budget for NASA’s Earth-science programs. The agency’s 2020 Earth-science budget will increase by about 15%.
“This is a very significant increase. You can’t mitigate climate change until you can measure it, and that’s NASA’s expertise,” Nelson said. “Understanding our planet gives us better means of protection.”
Nelson has been vehemently opposed to the Trump administration’s decision to cancel NASA’s carbon monitoring system – a $ 10 million-per-year program that collects data on how the planet revolves around the planet. The Congress later reinstated the program.
Nelson wrote in his testimony, “When I flew on the spacecraft, at no point was it scheduled with experiments or flying activities – which was not often.” How fragile I look with my thin atmosphere It was attacked. The combination of climate change cannot succeed without strong observations, data and research. “