According to NASA officials, the White House has requested a budget of $26 billion for the agency in 2023, with the goal of sending a group of people to Mars by 2040.
Biden asked for $1.93 billion (or 8 percent) of the 2022 appropriation NASA received, an amount that will fund the moon landings of the Artemis programexploration of the Moon and Mars, Earth sciences and space technology.
“Our goal is to apply what we have learned by living and operating on the Moon and then continue out into the solar system. Our plan is for humans to walk on Mars by 2040,” said Bill Nelson, the agency’s administrator, during the State of NASA livestream this week.
While NASA’s budget is partly intended to advance the Artemis program to put people on the Moon, the program’s numbers and timeline show a gap in human landings later in the 2020s.
The launch of the Artemis 1 lunar rocket — seen in the background on the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida during the broadcast — is scheduled for sometime in May, as they are currently on hold. of the result of a countdown of “wet dress rehearsal”.
After that, if NASA’s plans go ahead, there will be a manned mission around the Moon with Artemis 2 in 2024 and a human landing mission with Artemis 3 in 2025.
The agency has said that the first moon landing is more likely to occur in 2026, but even if the timeline goes according to plan, the new budget documents show a distance of three years between the moon landings.
According to NASA’s “Moon to Mars planning manifesto,” the next human landing will be with Artemis 5 in 2028, three years after Artemis 3. Then, manned landings are planned for 2029, 2030 and 2031 with Artemis 6, 7 and 8, respectively.
Also, NASA apparently wants to use a 2027 launch to help build its Gateway lunar space station, but has no 2026 trips listed for either the Moon or the facility.
NASA has also mentioned that the three-year gap between Artemis 3 and Artemis 5 will allow the agency to evaluate the performance of the HLS, a lunar lander variant of the Starship aircraft, which is being developed by SpaceX. Another company that will be chosen after a new round of selection will also participate in this process.
“We’re trying to get to these annual flights and get past the early flights, and understand how this vehicle works,” said associate administrator Jim Free, who is part of NASA’s mission and exploration systems directorate.
Free said examining human landers in detail will help the agency assess how to make plans to land on Mars. Additionally, NASA will “go after infrastructure pieces” on the Moon, including power and other items that can be reused for exploration on the Red Planet.
Considering that NASA’s detailed plans only go as far as 2027, Free mentioned that the agency wants to get to annual landings starting in 2028 “so we can get to Mars as soon as possible.”
According to Free, more information about NASA’s plans will be released in future budgets and as planning matures, both on Artemis’ Mars human exploration projects and the agency in general.