NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine lobbied the Senate to offer full support towards Artemis, while some senators disputed the Agency’s focus on its lunar exploration program. Bridenstine, speaking before the Senate’s Justice and Science Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee on September 23, mentioned that NASA needed the entire 3.2 billion dollars budget it had requested in the 2021 budget proposal. The proposal was for the Human Landing System project to keep the future 2024 return to the moon on schedule.
HLS acquired approximately $600 million in the House’s budget bill approved in July. “We are so appreciative of that. I want to be precise on this, “he said. “I’ll inform you too that this is not enough to attain the 2024 trip to the moon.”
The legislators, though, did not immediately show their intention in adjusting the bill. The chairman of the Subcommittee, Sen. Jerry Morgan, was the one who seemed more interested in the issue, raising a variety of questions regarding the Artemis program, the funds required plus the previous year’s decision to shift the moon return trip from 2028 to 2024.
Bridenstine claimed that accelerating the initiative would conserve money in the long term. “The speedier you go, the lesser the expenses,” he said. “We ought to shorten the timeline; we should go faster and eliminate as much threat as we can.”
Although Moran primarily embraced the program, he vetted for options to minimize costs. Bridenstine mentioned in his statement that NASA had plans to maintain at least two, and maybe all three, firms already in the HLS scheme as it deliberates on the next stage of the initiative early next year.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a senior member of the Subcommittee, challenged the focus on the Artemis initiative over science and education projects, which were to give way for the program in the proposed budget. Together with other senators, she has raised various schemes, including the PACE and CLARREO Pathfinder Earth Science Flights, the Roman Space Telescope, and the STEM Engagement Office (NASA’s education efforts).
At the time Bridenstine defended NASA’s education activities in light of the planned termination of the STEM Engagement Office, Moran answered back, “I believe the Senate will view it differently, as we have done in previous years.” Congress opposed plans to close the office over the past three years.
In conclusion, the succeeding steps in the Senate’s budget process are not yet clear. The upcoming fiscal year begins on October 1, yet Senate appropriators haven’t marked up any expenditure bills, leave alone having the entire Senate to vote on them. The Senate approved a continuing resolution on September 22, which would finance the federal government until December 11, a proposal that the House is likely to support to avert a government shutdown.