NASA Budget Amendment to Help Send Americans to Moon by 2024, Then Mars

Request adds $1.6 billion over original $21 billion budget request for 2020 fiscal year.

Stock Photos from Dima Zel / Shutterstock

An amended NASA budget for fiscal year 2020 would add $1.6 billion to a $21 billion initial budget request and fund deep space exploration, science, and technology initiatives. An acquisition approach to various projects would present significant opportunities for commercial partners and, likely, the entire aerospace supply chain.

The budget increase is being considered a down payment toward landing astronauts on the moon by 2024, establishing a sustained lunar presence by 2028, and subsequently sending astronauts to Mars, officials say.

“The President challenged NASA to land the first American woman and next American man at the south pole of the moon by 2024, followed by a sustained presence on the moon by 2028,” according to America to the Moon by 2024: NASA’s FY 2020 Budget Amendment Summary. “This FY 2020 budget amendment provides an increase of $1.6 billion… It’s the boost NASA needs to move forward with design, development, and exploration.

“Strong commercial partnerships will accelerate our human exploration plans,” the summary reads. “International partners also remain a vital part of our lunar plan and will contribute to the goal of creating a sustained lunar presence by 2028. Going forward, additional funds will be required in the 2020s, and a refined estimate will be submitted as part of the FY 2021 President’s budget request.”

Money is earmarked for several projects, including the following.

Human Lunar Landing System

This budget includes $1 billion to enable NASA to begin supporting the development of commercial human lunar landing systems three years earlier than previously envisioned to bring humans to the Moon’s surface by 2024.

This acquisition strategy will allow NASA to purchase an integrated commercial lunar lander that will transport astronauts from lunar orbit to the lunar surface and back.

Focusing Gateway development on capabilities needed to support a lunar landing of 2024 allowed a scope reduction of $321 million. This budget amendment shifts potential development of additional Gateway capabilities into the future.

Space Launch System Rocket and Orion Spacecraft

With an additional $651 million for SLS and Orion, this budget supports the most powerful rocket in the world and our new spacecraft to ultimately take the astronauts to the staging point for reaching the lunar surface, the Gateway in lunar orbit.

Exploration Technology

An additional $132 million for technologies that will support NASA to advance key precursor capabilities on the lunar surface. This includes various exploration technologies like solar electric propulsion and a demonstration converting polar ice to water. · Science: An augmentation of $90 million to enable increased robotic exploration of the Moon’s polar regions in advance of a human mission.

Space Policy Directive-1 provides the direction for NASA to organize more effectively government, commercial, and international efforts to develop a permanent presence off Earth that generates new markets and opportunities, both scientific and economic, NASA officials explain.

NASA is building a spacecraft to take astronauts to deep space that will usher in a new era of space exploration, officials add. “Orion will take us farther than we’ve gone before, and dock with the Gateway in orbit around the Moon. The spacecraft will carry up to four crew members and is designed to support astronauts traveling hundreds of thousands of miles from home, where getting back to Earth takes days rather than hours. Both distance and duration demand Orion to have systems that can reliably operate far from home, be capable of keeping astronauts alive in case of emergencies and still be light enough that a rocket can launch it.”

NASA will launch Orion on the agency’s rocket, the Space Launch System, from a modernized spaceport at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, officials continue. On the first integrated mission, Exploration Mission-1, an uncrewed Orion will venture thousands of miles beyond the Moon over the course of roughly three weeks. They anticipate a series of increasingly challenging missions with crew to follow.

“President Donald Trump has asked NASA to accelerate our plans to return to the Moon and to land humans on the surface again by 2024. We will go with innovative new technologies and systems to explore more locations across the surface than was ever thought possible,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine says. “This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay. And then we will use what we learn on the Moon to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.”

Courtney E. Howard  is editorial director and content strategist at SAE International. Contact her by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..