Lawmakers Grill NASA Chief on Moon-by-2024 Budget, Schedule | 10/16/2019 | Meghan Bartels
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A key group of congressional budgeters have big questions for NASA chief Jim Bridenstine about his moon-landing goals — and he doesn't have the answers they want.

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Bridenstine and a deputy testified at a hearing today (Oct. 16) run by a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee about funding NASA's Artemis program, an effort to land humans on the moon by 2024. The agency requested an additional $1.6 billion for the now-current fiscal year late in the budgeting process, which the subcommittee hasn't had a chance to evaluate until now. And the subcommittee members would like the full program estimate before they decide on that extra money.

"NASA has not provided the committee with a full cost estimate despite repeated requests," Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., said. "Since NASA has already programmed the lunar landing mission for 2028, why does it suddenly need to speed up the clock by four years, time that is needed to carry out a successful program from a science and safety perspective? To a lot of members, the motivation appears to be just a political one, giving President Trump a moon landing in a possible second term, should he be re-elected."

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The $1.6 billion request itself didn't raise many specific questions — but a major topic of the nearly two-hour hearing was what would come next. Multiple subcommittee members pressed Bridenstine for details about budgetary needs beyond next September, for fiscal years 2021 through 2024.

NASA doesn't have those numbers right now and won't soon, Bridenstine reiterated. Earlier this year, in June, Bridenstine told CNN that returning astronauts to the moon by 2024 could cost between $20 billion and $30 billion, although that number was not final. Bridenstine has also disputed reports...
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