NASA Budget Will Send Astronauts Back To The Moon—And Maybe Mars

A 1997 image from NASA's Mars Pathfinder lander.NASA/Public Domain

The 2020 NASA budget proposal has ambitious plans for the future of space exploration.

On Monday, NASA announced its 2020 budget proposal, which included renewed efforts to send humans back to the moon and to develop the capabilities of reaching Mars. "For the first time in over 10 years, we have money in this budget for a return to the moon with humans," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a presentation at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. "I'm talking human-rated landers, compatible with Gateway, that can go back and forth to the surface of the moon." Bridenstine is eager to carry out President Trump's Space Policy Directive 1, which emphasized a focus on human exploration of outer space. The budget proposal also fully funded the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (formerly the Deep Space Gateway). The proposed moon-orbiting outpost would serve as a research site and waystation to the lunar surface.

"The moon is the proving ground; Mars is the horizon goal," Bridenstine said. The budget proposal funds the Mars 2020 mission and a sample-return mission to the planet that could launch launch in 2026.

But these projects came at the expense of others like the Space Launch System rocket (SLS), which would receive $375 million less in 2020 than it received in 2019. The proposal also provides no funding to the WFIRST telescope and the Office of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Engagement. In the past, funding for both WFIRST and STEM education have been re-added by Congress, which has yet to approve or modify the proposal.

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