The United States wants its astronauts walking on the surface of the moon in 2024, but the mission is going to be expensive.
In fact, according to reports, NASA will need an estimated $20 billion to $30 billion over the next five years for the Artemis program, named after the Greek goddess of the moon.
Jim Bridenstine On Artemis Program Budget
This is the first time that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has spoken about estimated expenses of landing on the lunar surface in five years. The program, which is a response to the Trump administration's directive, could see two people — a man and a woman — take their first step on the moon since the Apollo program ended in the 70s.
However, NASA also swore that this time around, the United States would not just leave a flag and not come back. Part of the plan is to maintain a sustainable presence on Earth's natural satellite, which means that astronauts will be able to land and leave over and over again.
The space agency is already estimated to receive a $20 billion budget annually. The cost of the lunar mission seeks to add another $4 billion to $6 billion on average to its budget per year.
"We're negotiating with the administration. We're talking to [the federal Office of Management and Budget; we're talking to the National Space Council," said Bridenstine. "Once we come to a determination within the administration, we will of course take that over to the Hill and make sure that our members of Congress are interested and willing to support that effort."
However, the amount the space agency is asking for the Artemis program is a far cry from what it spent to send the first man on the moon 50 years ago. In May, Howard McCurdy, a professor of public affairs at the American University in Washington, said in an interview with UPI that the United States allocated $21 billion up to the moment that Neil Armstrong took that historic first step. Using the same technology, it would translate into about $200 billion today.
He commented that a low-cost program is feasible, but he predicted that the agency would need $40 billion to $60 billion to achieve its goal within five years.
NASA's Grand Plan To Return To The Moon
NASA and the United States have already invested billions for the trip. The Space Launch System, which was once expected to make its maiden flight in 2017, has experienced numerous delays. The space agency has already spent at least $12 billion for the development of what will become "the most powerful rocket" that can journey into any destination across the solar system.
The Orion spacecraft, which will sit on top of the SLS and carry astronauts to the moon, is reportedly hundreds of millions of dollars over its expected cost.
In addition, the Lunar Gateway, which will serve as an outpost for astronauts coming in and out of the moon, does not exist yet. NASA plans to launch the Power and Propulsion Element in 2022.