When NASA’s administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks of the Artemis program you can hear the passion and conviction in his voice.
NASA spent all week at this years International Astronautical Congress (IAC) talking about the moon and how the Artemis program is an international program. One which needs more partners. So far only Canada and Japan have officially signed on.
The Artemis program though, with its goal of landing humans on the moon by 2024, is in tough financial spot. For the program to reach its goal, it requires a cash infusion in NASA’s next fiscal year which starts on October 1.
At the moment Congress has approved funding from October 1 to November 21 through a Continuing Resolution (CR) at fiscal year 2019 levels. With the impeachment investigation likely moving to a trial in the Senate in November, it’s quite possible that another CR could be implemented. That would mean NASA would not have the $1.6 billion in additional funding it requested specifically for the Artemis program.
While funding might be delayed, the Artemis program is moving forward. It has bi-partisan support, for the most part, for now. The lingering question is, what happens if there’s a change in administration in the 2020 election?
NASA administrator Artemis program update
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine last Friday, the last day of this years IAC, spent an hour discussing the Artemis program including answering audience questions. He also announced the new VIPER lunar rover.
VIPER rover to the moon
In December 2022 a NASA lunar rover called VIPER will land on the South Pole of the moon with the goal of mapping water ice.
It would be the first time a rover has explored the lunar South Pole, an area that is thought to be rich in water ice, a key component for a future moon base.
“The key to living on the Moon is water – the same as here on Earth,” said Daniel Andrews, the project manager of the VIPER mission and director of engineering at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. “Since the confirmation of lunar water-ice ten years ago, the question now is if the Moon could really contain the amount of resources we need to live off-world. This rover will help us answer the many questions we have about where the water is, and how much there is for us to use.”
NASA said the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) is the about the size of a golf cart. It will explore several kilometres around its landing site using four science instruments.
- A Neutron Spectrometer System (NSS) – To detect “wet” areas below the surface for further investigation.
- A drill: Regolith and Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain (TRIDENT) – To dig up soil cuttings from up to a meter beneath the surface. The drill is being developed by Honeybee.
- The Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo) to analyze drill samples. MSolo will be developed NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
- The Near InfraRed Volatiles Spectrometer System (NIRVSS) to analyze drill samples. NIRVSS is being developed by NASA Ames Research Center.