A mission to the moon tentatively scheduled for 2028 was pitched to the National Space Council’s Users’ Advisory Group—a group of government and NASA officials headed by Vice President Mike Pence that’s in charge of brainstorming and organizing NASA’s long term plans—on Thursday.
NASA head Jim Bridenstine and NASA Associate Administrator for Policy and Strategy Tom Cremins presented a timeline for reaching and settling the moon in the late 2020s. The proposal is in response to a strong push from President Trump, who proposed a mission to the moon in December of 2017 without offering a plan for doing so, or a fleshed out explanation as to how such a mission would fit into NASA’s long-term plans.
The National Space Council announced that a mission to the moon would be a priority of the Trump administration in October of this year. However, a mission back to the moon is still controversial. Some National Science and Technology Council members, a space advisory group made up of Congresspeople, have suggested that NASA is better off focusing on a mission to Mars in the 2030s, which will require an intensive dedication of time and energy. However, Ted Cruz and Mike Pence—who head the National Science and Technology Council and National Space Council, respectively—have direct influence over space mission advisory councils, and they have both expressed support toward Trump’s idea of going to the moon.
Still, there could be budgetary restrictions that would prevent a moon mission. At the Thursday National Space Council meeting, Bridenstine said that a proposed 5 percent cut to NASA’s budget in 2020 would rule out such a mission entirely. “If that [cut] materializes, no, we’re not going to have what we need to go to the moon,” Bridenstine said, according to SpaceNews. “We’re certainly not going to have what we need to put boots on the moon.”
The National Science and Technology Council has explicitly stated that private companies would develop the technology that will take humans to Mars, and perhaps the moon. Some companies have already started to develop technology that could take humans to either location. Major government military contractor Lockheed Martin released plans for creating a reusable, crewed lunar lander back in October. Jeff Bezos has proposed sending unspecified metric tons of cargo to the moon in 2022. Meanwhile, SpaceX has vaguely proposed sending Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and a group of artists around the moon in the Big Falcon Rocket in 2022, and while SpaceX has funding, these plans remain in their early stages.