One of the big questions before Congress is whether to fully fund the Human Landing System, the key remaining technology needed to return humans to the Moon. NASA asked for $3.3 billion in fiscal year 2021 to start development of two landers. Congress provided just $850 million for this year's budget.
As a result, NASA said it only had enough funds for one lander and chose what it deemed the lowest-cost, most technically ready option: SpaceX's Starship vehicle. Nelson said he very much would like to have competition in the lander program, but, he said, "That will depend on you all." In other words, if Congress appropriates substantially more funding for a lunar lander program for the 2022 budget, then NASA will be able to support development of two lunar landers.
Several members of Congress tried to object to this idea. Brian Babin (R-Texas) noted that the Biden administration had only asked for $1.2 billion in the recent 2022 President's Budget Request for a Human Landing System. This is only about one-third of the amount the White House requested in the 2021 budget. "Once you dig into the details, some concerning themes emerge," Babin said of the fiscal year 2022 NASA budget request, suggesting that it was really the White House that was not committed to Artemis.
But Nelson was having none of this. "The Congress appropriated $850 million," Nelson told Babin. "And so you can only get so many pounds of potatoes out of a five-pound sack. If you all are generous... then we're going to try to rev it up."
Reminds me of management asking why the new system is a dumpster fire, after months of paper trails and CC'ed emails warning about the insufficient budget and timeline to meet all of the project requirements.
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