Monday, May 20, 2019

NASA's Leaked Artemis Lunar Exploration Plan Includes 37 Launches, 5 Crewed Landings and a Lunar Outpost

          By Chuck Black

Technology focused website Ars Technica claims to have obtained an internal NASA plan for the next 37 rocket launches to the Moon under the proposed Artemis program. The proposal includes the landing of the first of five human astronaut crews on the Moon in 2024 and culminates with the establishment a crewed base at the Lunar South Pole in 2028.

NASA's "notional" plan for a human return to the Moon by 2024 and the creation of a lunar outpost by 2028. Graphic c/o ArsTechnica.

As outlined in the May 20th, 2019 Ars Technica post, "NASA’s full Artemis plan revealed: 37 launches and a lunar outpost," the plan began circulating within NASA last week.

According to the post:
A graphic (above), provides information about each of the major launches needed to construct a small Lunar Gateway, stage elements of a lunar lander there, fly crews to the Moon and back, and conduct refueling missions. 
This decade-long plan, which entails 37 launches of private and NASA rockets, as well as a mix of robotic and human landers, culminates with a "Lunar Surface Asset Deployment" in 2028, likely the beginning of a surface outpost for long-duration crew stays. 
Developed by the agency's senior human spaceflight manager, Bill Gerstenmaier, this plan is everything (US VP Mike) Pence asked for—an urgent human return, a Moon base, a mix of existing and new contractors.
But the plan is currently missing two important components. According to the post:
It's not clear what role there would be on these charts for international partners, as nearly all of the vehicles could—and likely would—come from NASA or US based companies.  
Also missing is a discussion of the estimated total budget needed to fund the program.

As outlined in the May 20th, 2019 post, "NASA Begins Issuing "Non-Traditional" Procurement Contracts for Human Rated Lunar Landers," much of the total cost will end up being dependent on the type of procurement methodologies the US uses to purchase the required vehicles and technologies.

But new money might not be easy to come by.

As outlined in the May 20th, 2019 Parabolic Arc post, "House Subcommittee Boosts NASA Budget, Ignores Supplemental Request," the US House of Representatives Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee has just approved a fiscal year 2020 NASA budget increase of $820Mln US ($1.1Bln CDN) over FY 2019.

The increase is far lower than the $1.6Bln US ($2.15Bln CDN) supplemental budget request from the Trump Administration that NASA says is required to land astronauts on the Lunar South Pole in 2024.

But it's also an initial negotiating position from only one of the many committees with input into the final deal. Over the next few months, we'll see if the US government can build out a useful consensus.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

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