CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A new bill in Congress may change the timeline on NASA’s planned missions to the moon and Mars and impact launches at Florida’s Space Coast.
U.S. House members have introduced a bill that would delay a lunar landing to 2028 and shift resources to orbit humans around Mars in 2033.
The bill is also raising new questions about future partnerships with private space companies.
While NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was encouraged by the bipartisan bill, he expressed concern about some significant constraints to the agency's approach to lunar exploration and an expanding commercial economy.
Last year, the Trump administration instructed NASA to put boots on the moon by 2024.
Since then, the agency has been on the fast track seeking proposals for a human lunar lander and logistics for Gateway, a moon-orbiting space station.
Now, a House NASA authorization bill puts a human return to the moon within the context of a larger "moon to Mars" program that would no longer have the goal of returning humans to the surface of the moon in the next four years.
“We're still digesting it, but it very much appears to be in conflict with a lot of the plans that most of us out here were working towards,” said Dale Ketcham, with Space Florida.
The House version of the NASA authorization act of 2020 would authorize a $22.6 billion budget for the agency. Among other things, it requires the establishment of a "moon to mars program."
“There are a lot of people upset with the changes and the specific requirements that prohibit NASA from working with the commercial sector to reach its long-term goals, whether or not it’s Mars or the moon,” Ketcham said.
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