While NASA’s proposed 2014 budget reaffirms the agency’s plan to send astronauts to an asteroid, some members of Congress are pushing for a more familiar goal: a Moon base by 2022.
These House lawmakers contend that the Moon should still be NASA’s immediate human spaceflight target. They have reintroduced a 2011 bill called the Reasserting American Leadership in Space Act (or REAL Space Act for short), which asks NASA to send astronauts to the Moon by 2022 with the goal of establishing a long-term settlement there.
“In order to explore deeper into space — to Mars and beyond — a moon presence offers us the ability to develop and test technologies to cope with the realities of operating on an extraterrestrial surface,” Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) said in an April 10 statement.
The bill would also give NASA’s manned spaceflight efforts more direction, its sponsors say.
“This legislation is not just about landing another human on the Moon,” Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said in a statement. “It is about restoring our nation’s now defunct human spaceflight program and setting clear and achievable goals that will lead to advancements in science and technology. … This legislation restores and clarifies NASA’s role in human spaceflight and sets the U.S. back on course to lead exploration of the cosmos.”
In 2004, NASA unveiled its Constellation program that aimed to return astronauts to the Moon by 2020 using a new family of rockets, the Ares 1 and Ares 5, as well as new Orion space capsules and lunar landers. In 2010, however, the administration of President Barack Obama replaced that program with the asteroid-oriented spaceflight goal NASA is currently pursuing.
NASA’s focus on getting humans to a near-Earth asteroid makes a U.S.-led lunar surface mission unlikely anytime soon, NASA Administrator Charlessaid earlier this month.
“NASA will not take the lead on a human lunar mission,” Bolden said April 4 during a joint meeting of the Space Studies Board and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board. “NASA is not going to the Moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime. And the reason is, we can only do so many things.”