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NASA prepares to go to the moon: Is the $30 billion trip worth it?

Courtesy of NASA I Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of NASA I Wikimedia Commons

Jim Bridenstine, the Administrator of NASA, states that the results of Project Artemis will help with the exploration of Mars afterwards. Currently, launching one SLS rocket would cost $1.6 billion, but if several were to be bought as a package like 10, the cost could lower to $800 million per rocket. In total, Project Artemis could cost up to $30 billion. 

NASA and Boeing, an aerospace company, still have to come to terms with the number of rockets that will be produced for an accurate estimate of pricing. Currently, they are under contract for two rockets, Bridenstine told reporters in an interview. 

The focus — once the rockets successfully reach the Moon — is to extend the amount of time astronauts are able to live and work on the Moon. 

The big picture project is Mars and for that, NASA will gain experience using the Moon. In comparison to how expensive the Apollo missions were back in 1960 to 1973, NASA needed $25.8 billion.

The cost in today’s dollars would be $264 billion. The cost of going to the moon has been the leading reason for the lack of moon travel since 1973. 

Besides the amount of funding necessary for NASA to accomplish Project Artemis, there are political risks involved with the project. 

The first moon landing was in many ways, affected by the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. Ever since then, projects like landing to the moon have lost their priority in the grand scheme of things. 

The changes in presidential administrations also affects the programs NASA works on because NASA receives funding from the government. 

Different administrations mean that different amounts of money are allocated to NASA’s research and development. In 2010, the Constellation Program was scrapped by former President Barack Obama. Following that, Obama instructed NASA to focus on sending astronauts to an asteroid. 

In 2017, President Trump cancelled that mission and directed NASA to fly to the moon. The initial target date for the flight to the moon was 2028 but Vice President Mike Pence ordered them to do it by 2024. 

On May 14, Bridenstine addressed why political risk affects NASA employees, “Because priorities change, budgets change, administrations change, Congresses change.” 

It is reasonable to believe that a new administration could cause the downfall of this project, but with its soon approaching deadline it could be done. Bridenstine claimed that the shorter the deadline is, the less political risk they will have to undergo. This also means less testing for accurate measurements, but moral is kept up high. 

In December of 2019, a rocket fuel tank was tested by putting it under intense amounts of pressure which caused it to explode. The rocket fuel tank was an exact replica of the tanks scientists will use for future endeavors. 

The researchers conducting this experiment stated that the results will be useful for future expeditions. 

Some claimed that the results were better than they had anticipated. These rocket fuel tanks are meant to be reusable so testing for their accuracy and reliability is crucial for projects like Project Artemis. 

The reason launching rockets is so expensive is the amount of energy required to escape Earth’s gravity. Rockets need to travel at 40,000 kilometers per hour, or seven miles per second. 

In order for the escape from Earth to be successful, the SLS must have precise measurements to avoid rockets from falling back down to Earth. Two new astronaut spacesuits have also been introduced by NASA.  The new designs seek to increase mobility for astronauts in comparison to previous years. 

What many find more interesting about the expedition is the group of astronauts that will be chosen for the flight. 

It has been confirmed that there will be a woman on the flight but who it will be has not been decided yet. 

The first woman to land on the Moon will be on board in 2024 — 55 years from when the first man landed on the Moon in 1969. 

Bridenstine shares his opinion that the next group of astronauts to launch to the Moon should have people with outstanding personalities, regardless of gender. 

While the Moon may have already been explored, colonizing it will be a greater triumph with Project Artemis. 

One thing, however, has remained constant since 1960 — traveling to the moon is extremely expensive.

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