NASA has its sights set on the next moon landing and the goal is to accomplish that task by 2024. While it’s one thing to talk the talk, it’s another to walk the walk. Well, it would seem that NASA has started taking its first steps toward the 2024 target.
As of now, the initial plan calls for three distinct launches of the Space Launch System. The star of that particular mission, the Orion spacecraft, is already an intricate part of Exploration Mission 1, the unmanned operation that is already well into development. This particular phase of the mission has already seen some setbacks with the rocket.
Even with the setbacks, EM-1 will likely launch by 2021. After that initial, unmanned mission, EM-2 would be on deck to launch sometime in 2022. EM-2 is far more significant, as it would mark the first time that a crew would board the rocket for testing. The exact date will, of course, be determined by EM-1.
EM-3 is the final stage of the mission, where a crew would actually head to the lunar surface again for the first time in more than 50 years. That phase of the mission is set to happen sometime in 2024 if all goes as planned.
That first lunar landing will certainly be an accomplishment for the space program, but it won’t necessarily meet the expectations of many who follow the progress of the mission. Officials with the NASA have used the word “minimalistic” to describe this first lunar landing. They’ve admitted that astronauts won’t likely be spending a ton of time on the surface. Right now, they’re looking at the minimum gear necessary so they can keep the cargo as lean as possible.
Recently, NASA proposed to the white house the expected budget to keep the mission on track, and it’s not going to be cheap. According to the budget, NASA will need $8 billion a year for the next 5 years to stay on track. That’s on top of the $20 billion per year that the agency already gets.
It’s obviously a stout price tag, but NASA maintains that if it’s not met, meeting the 2024 deadline will be extremely difficult.