NASA has finally assigned a sticker price to its ambitious plan to return astronauts to the lunar surface in the next five years.
Speaking to CNN Business, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency will need an estimated $20 billion to $30 billion by 2024 to deliver Americans to the moon for the first time in about 50 years. Split over the next five years, that would add about $4 billion to $6 billion each year, on average, to NASA’s budget.
To get it off the ground, NASA has already requested a $1.6 billion increase to its $20 billion fiscal year 2020 budget but has been reluctant to give a full cost for the entire program, known as Artemis — a callback to the Apollo program that first sent humans to the moon in 1969.
The $20 billion to $30 billion is the first estimate NASA has offered publicly, though it could still change, Bridenstine told CNN. NASA is currently negotiating “within the administration,” he said.
“Once we come to a determination within the administration, we will of course take that over to the Hill and make sure that our members of Congress are interested and willing to support that effort,” Bridenstine said.
The agency has an uphill battle ahead of it to ensure it reaches its deadline of a 2024 lunar landing. In the past, moonshots have been the victim of uneven political support and inadequate funding. None has succeeded in returning humans to the moon since the final Apollo lunar landing in 1972. In the 1960s, a Cold War climate and an inflated budget — at its peak, the NASA budget was more than 4% of the federal budget when today it’s less than 1% — catapulted America to the moon.