The topic about NASA’s foundings came in a letter that Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, sent to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, on Oct. 23.
He mentioned in his letter that even though NASA is grateful for “the committee’s continued support for space exploration, the allocated money doesn’t go far enough.”
NASA’s $22.8 billion budget for the fiscal year 2019 includes $1.6 billion provided for exploration research and development (R&D), Vought wrote. But this money is “insufficient to fully fund the lander system that astronauts would use to return to the moon in 2024,” he wrote. Vought requested an additional $2.3 billion in the fiscal 2020 budget to keep NASA on track for its moon-landing goal.
NASA had a tight schedule this year and received a new mandate from the Trump administration in March to accelerate its moon-landing plans to 2024, up from the previous deadline of 2028.
“In May the White House requested an additional $1.6 billion in funding for NASA to achieve the goal of returning humans to the moon by 2024,” SpaceNews reported. “That included $1 billion for lunar landers and $132 million for exploration technology, but a cut in Gateway funding of $321 million. Those changes increase the total exploration R&D request to more than $2.3 billion.”
The letter from Vought also included a concern about NASA’s planned Europa Clipper mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter.
Vought wrote that an SLS launch would cost $2 billion, whereas moving it to a commercial launcher would be much cheaper, to the tune of a $1.5 billion in savings.
“The administration is deeply concerned that this mandate would slow the lunar exploration program, which requires every SLS rocket available,” Vought wrote. “Unlike the human exploration program, which requires the use of the SLS, the Europa mission could be launched by a commercial rocket.”