NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine predicted Thursday that the U.S. will have a constant lunar presence in about the next 10 years.
The bold prediction came on the same the day the space agency announced nine U.S. industry partners who will compete for contracts to help send supplies for missions both the moon and, one day, Mars.
“Right now, we’re building a space station, we call it ‘Gateway,’ that’s going to be in orbit around the moon — think of it as a reusable command module where we can have human presence in orbit around the moon. From there, we want reusable landers that go back and forth to the surface of the moon,” Bridenstine told Hill.TV.
The Trump administration has prioritized creating a space station, the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, in the moon’s orbit sometimes within the 2020s, with the intent on using it as a launch pad for missions both on the lunar surface as well as crewed deep-space missions sent farther out into the solar system, including Mars.
Astronauts haven’t been to the moon since 1972.
Bridenstine was confident that the U.S. would not only return soon to the moon, but also do so in a continuous fashion.
“We think we can achieve this in about 10 years, the idea being prove the capability, retire the risk, prove the human physiology, and then go on to Mars,” he said.
While his long-term outlook was bullish, Bridenstine was far less optimistic that NASA would achieve its short-term goal of launching an uncrewed flight test — with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft — to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in January. He said there was a “very low probability” of meeting the Jan. 7 target, according to USA Today.
However, Bridenstine said he is still confident astronauts will fly to the station from the U.S. by next year. With the shuttering of the space shuttle program, the U.S. currently has to pay Russia — $80 million per seat — to have its astronauts flown into space on Soyuz rockets.
NASA is looking to U.S. industry partners, including Boeing and SpaceX, to develop a shuttle replacement.
∫∫∫ Once again, we’ve had a “Space Force” for decades now….