House space subcommittee chair still seeking NASA plan for 2024 lunar landing

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WASHINGTON — The chair of the House space subcommittee says NASA has still not convinced her that the agency has a viable plan to return humans to the moon by 2024.

Speaking at a Wilson Center event Oct. 6 about the geopolitics of space, Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) said she was waiting to see a plan from NASA that explained how the agency’s Artemis program could meet its goal of a human return to the lunar surface in four years.

“We still haven’t seen a plan that shows us we can get to the moon on the 2024 schedule,” she said, including the ability of NASA to manage “multiple, simultaneous, large” development programs and the various demonstrations leading up to that crewed landing.

Such a plan was an element of a NASA authorization bill that she introduced in January with other leaders of the House Science Committee from both parties. That bill put a human return to the moon squarely on a path for a human mission to Mars as soon as 2033, and required NASA to provide plans for “the minimum set of human and robotic lunar surface activities” needed to achieve that goal as well as a five-year budget.

NASA has provided the latter, releasing Sept. 22 a report that included a budget projection of $28 billion required from 2021 through 2025 for landing astronauts on the moon on the Artemis 3 mission in 2024. That report also outlined the Artemis program, including that initial spring to the moon followed by what it calls a “sustainable” second phase of exploration.

Horn didn’t comment directly on that report, but indicated it did not provide sufficient detail for her. “I think we should have bold and aggressive goals. We also need the plan to go along with them to build