NASA to Return Humans to the Moon

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13 Feb 2018

The Trump administration’s proposed 2019 NASA budget provides resources to advance exploration of the moon and deep space and pursue cutting-edge science, technology and aeronautics research breakthroughs.
In NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot’s address Feb. 12 on the state of the agency, he explained that the Trump administration wants to see a focus on moon missions as part of the fiscal year 2019 proposed $19.9 billion NASA budget. To those ends $10.5 billion is focused on lunar exploration.

“This proposal provides a renewed focus to our human spaceflight activities and expands our commercial and international partnerships,” Lightfoot said.
The concept for the Mars mission came from a study from the re-established National Space Council that became Space Policy Directive 1, which the president signed and is funded in this budget proposal. The plan is intended to lead to the development of space infrastructure for a lunar orbital platform gateway. The first piece which is scheduled for delivery in 2022. Robotic landers acting as scouts will enhance scientific and strategic exploration of the moon leading to eventual human exploration of Mars.

The Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft are critical backbone elements of NASA’s future in deep space. The momentum continues this year toward the first integrated launch of the system in fiscal year 2020 around the moon and a crewed mission in 2023.
Direct support of the International Space Station is expected to end in 2025, with a transition of low-earth orbit operations to the commercial sector. A $150 million investment is included in the budget proposal to encourage U.S. space industry development of capabilities that could be used by the private sector and NASA. Commercial crew, an effort to seed development of transportation to ISS and allow astronauts to be launched from the United States, also is funded.

The president’s proposed budget calls for winding down the NASA Office of Education and elimination of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, a NASA observatory designed to perform wide field imaging and surveys of the near infrared sky.
The Aeronautics budget is $633.9 million to improve air traffic management, make progress integrating unmanned aircraft systems into the National Airspace System, fund the X-57 distributed electric propulsion aircraft, begin construction of the experimental supersonic airplane called the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator aircraft and increase financial support for hypersonic research.

Armstrong’s budget is $292.1 million, which is up from last year overall, mostly as a result of the X-57 ramping up for flight tests. The X-57 is expected to validate more efficient distributed electric motors and reduce noise and emissions.
“We have a bold set of plans going forward,” said David McBride, center director at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California. “The X-57 will be delivered in a few weeks and a vend or will soon be selected to begin construction of a new supersonic experimental airplane. We will be flying it to continue with low boom supersonic studies to see if we can reduce the noise to levels acceptable to people.”

In addition, Armstrong is working toward a 2019 launch of the Ascent Abort 2 capsule that would rescue Orion astronauts if there was an emergency on the launch pad. The center continues support with aircraft to conduct Earth science missions that fly all over the world and as well as Armstrong’s work to safely integrate Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration into the National Airspace System. That work could lead to expanding government and industry partnerships toward the development of an urban air mobility system that could lead to flying taxis.
Armstrong’s proposed budget is $292 million. Aeronautics, Safety, Security and Mission Services and Science comprise the biggest portions of the proposed budget with $146.1 million, $59.6 million and $59.4 million respectively. Rounding out the funding are $4.4 million for Exploration Research and Technology, $15 million for Deep Space Exploration Systems, 0.3 million for Low Earth Orbit and Spaceflight Operations and $7.2 million for Construction and Environmental Compliance Restoration.

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy also is funded through 2019, when the result of a senior science review is expected to factor into the program’s future. Armstrong operates the airborne astronomical observatory that is capable of observing a wide variety of astronomical objects and phenomena. In addition, the center will continue to support the Flight Opportunities Level 2 Program Office.
Following the budget announcement, each center sponsored a State of NASA event for social media and Armstrong also invited news media. Armstrong’s event focused on two panel discussions, one on the Future of Flying Vehicles - UAS and the other focusing on X-ploring Aeronautics – X-planes.

NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center Director David McBride answers questions about the Trump administration's 2019 budget released Feb. 12.