Friday, March 29, 2019

An Aggressive, Achievable Plan Requiring Lots of Money to Accomplish

          By Henry Stewart

American experts and industry suppliers are slowly chiming in on US Vice President Mike Pence's aggressive demand that the US commit to placing "boots on the Moon" by 2024. The emerging consensus is that the goal is achievable, but difficult and will "require concerted effort by NASA, the White House, and the Office of Management and Budget."

As outlined in the March 28th, 2019 post, "Can NASA Really Put Astronauts on the Moon in 2024?," Pence has instructed NASA to put US astronauts on the lunar surface by 2024, four years earlier than previously planned.

The article noted that representatives from Denver CO based Lockheed Martin Space Systems, the prime contractor for the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle (Orion MPCV), have indicated that:
... the company could build a crewed lunar lander relatively quickly, by leveraging technologies developed for Orion. This lander could touch down by 2024, provided it departs from an "early version" of the (Lunar) Gateway, the moon-orbiting space station that NASA plans to start building in 2022 as a fulcrum for landing operations.
The article also quoted Brian Weeden, the director of program planning at the Washington DC based Secure World Foundation, a private operating foundation that promotes cooperative solutions for space sustainability and the peaceful uses of outer space.

According to Wheedon, "The question has always been politics."
Historically, Congress and the White House tend to pull NASA in different directions, he explained, and the agency doesn't have enough money to do all that it's asked to do.
Any increase in the tempo of the construction of the NASA led Lunar Gateway could also effect the Canadian Federal government's recent commitment of $1.9Bln CDN in funding for a 3rd generation Canadarm for the Gateway.

As outlined in the March 20th, 2019 "Special Report on the 2019 Federal Budget," the funding for the new Canadarm doesn't really start to kick in until the 2020-2021 budget period. It might need to be re-allocated or pushed forward in order to effectively contribute to the now modified, US initiative.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

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