To achieve the challenging goal of making a trip to the moon and back by 2024 both leaders Donald Trump and Vice President Pence are turning the heat on NASA. Recently the agency’s administrator Jim Bridenstine stated the need to have a near term goal to achieve this long term goal. He emphasized that NASA should have a streamlined program and a skilled management approach to provide focus on design and integration details to achieve the milestones as per schedule. The current work approach of NASA is quite complex and risky and it has mixed other priorities with the lunar mission schedule which has made the target of 2024 unachievable. The biggest priority now for NASA is to setup a space station which will orbit the moon and support future missions to Mars called the Gateway.
But critics say that this arbitrarily imposed mission is slowing down government priority to send astronauts to the moon. For lunar missions every flight element has to fit on commercial launch vehicles with required lift capacity and NASA needs to have transfer vehicles and refueling elements to enable fueling in space. NASA is pursuing commercial service providers for required acquisitions but looking at the department’s past records US is still paying Russia to fly its astronauts to International Space Station.
This is why Bridenstine expressed concern over SpaceX’s lack of focus as it has been paid $2.5 billion for building commercial crew contract to the moon. These delays show that lunar program has to be streamlined and NASA has to finish project that has already begun. NASA should focus on developing and integrated lander that can be launched on SLS1B which has a significantly higher probability of success. NASA has to organize, lead and manage simplified programs for completion of new integrated lander with sustainable capabilities.
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