Challenges Mount for NASA’s Expensive Mission to Return U.S. to Moon, as Seen on  – Video

Challenges Mount for NASA’s Expensive Mission to Return U.S. to Moon, as Seen on – Video

NASA’s ambitious Artemis mission to send American astronauts back to the moon is facing technical challenges and uncertainties over costs and timelines. While a small robotic Lander successfully touched down near the South Pole of the Moon, the mission hit a snag when it tipped over shortly after landing, highlighting the challenges of lunar exploration.

With the goal of establishing an outpost at the South Pole and eventually pushing on to Mars, NASA’s Artemis program is relying on partnerships with private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin. While SpaceX is working on a massive Starship Mega rocket for lunar landings, Blue Origin is developing reusable Landers to help reduce costs and ensure sustainability for future missions.

Despite setbacks and delays, NASA remains optimistic about achieving its goal of landing astronauts on the moon by the end of 2026. However, concerns remain about technical milestones, costs, and competition from other space agencies like China. As NASA works towards its moon landing goal, the future of lunar exploration and eventual missions to Mars remains uncertain but hopeful.

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Video Transcript

A small robotic Lander built by a private company and carrying a scientific payload for NASA touched down near the South Pole of the Moon 11 days ago and promptly tipped over on its side even so it’s the first American spacecraft to land on the moon in more

Than 50 years NASA has a much more ambitious lunar program called emis which aims to send people back to the Moon to establish an outpost at the South Pole and to push on from there to Mars we previewed Artemis here in 2021 but there are significant questions now

About the program’s costs and its timetable in January NASA announced its new Target for aand landing late 2026 a year later than planned but as we discovered even that may be unrealistic the story will continue in a moment and lift off of aramus 1 when Artemis 1 soared into space in November

Of 2022 it was the beginning of a nearly Flawless mission in its first test flight NASA’s new space launch system rocket sent an empty Orion crew capsule on a 1.4 million M flyby of the Moon before a picture perfect return to Earth splash down the next flight Artemis 2 meant to

Carry four astronauts on a lunar flyby was supposed to launch this year and then a year later Artemis 3 would land the first woman and first person of color on the moon it’s not working out quite that way I think it is safe to say uh without significant uh reductions in

Costs better cost controls better plan uh the sardus program on its current trajectory is not sustainable George Scott is NASA’s acting Inspector General don’t be misled by the acting he’s been a top agency Watchdog for more than 5 years while NASA’s Engineers have their heads in the Stars it’s his job to bring

Them back to Earth particularly when it comes to costs right now we’re we’re estimating that per launch uh the Artemis campaign will cost $4.2 billion per launch per launch per launch that’s an incredible amount of money per launch a lot of that Hardware is just going to

End up in the ocean never to be used again the Inspector General for NASA says that the costs for the emis program are simply unsustainable is he wrong we didn’t necessarily agree with their conclusions we we feel like we’ve taken an affordable path to do these missions Jim free is NASA’s associate administrator

And directly in charge of Artemis we met him at historic Launchpad 39b from which both Apollo and Artemis Rockets have flown we believe that the rocket we have is best matched for the mission and frankly the only one in the world that can take cruise to the Moon confirmation

That the solid rocket boosters have separated but as George Scott said most components of that SLS rocket end up in the ocean they’re not reusable and with the goal of building an outpost on the moon Artemis will need a lot of those 42 billion Rockets it’s going to take

Launch after launch after launch to get all that stuff up there yes so the number of launches is daunting um but it’s it’s hard to get people to the Moon that’s something when America sent Neil Armstrong and 11 more AST auts to the Moon a half century ago that’s beautiful

They got to the lunar surface aboard Landers we leave it we came and God willing as we shall return owned and operated by NASA you’re taking a different approach this time than with Apollo what’s what’s the difference this time the difference is we’re buying it as a service um we’re paying someone to

Take our crews down and take them up it’s been an incredible year that someone is Elon Musk in 2021 NASA signed a nearly $3 billion contract with his SpaceX to use its new starship Mega rocket as the lunar lander for the first Artemis astronauts it is by far the biggest flying object ever

Made SpaceX is preparing for its third Starship launch at top its enormous super heavy booster the first two launches both ended in roughly the same way as you can see the super heavy booster has just experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly rapid unscheduled disassembly is SpaceX speak for our Starship rocket just blew up

Again and now you’ve seen some of the Perils of relying on SpaceX we’ve seen some of the challenges they’ve had on Starship We need them to launch several times uh to give us the confidence that we can put our crews on there but right

Now as we sit here today you have no way of getting the astronauts to the surface of the Moon because of these problems that SpaceX has faced because they haven’t they haven’t hit the technical Milestones spacex’s stated plan is to first put its Starship Lander into low

Earth orbit then launch 10 more Starship tankers to pump rocket fuel into the Lander in space Mak SciFi real before sending it onward to meet astronauts in lunar orbit and this has never been done before there’s been small scale transfers in orbit but not of this magnitude it just sounds

Incredibly complicated it it is complicated there’s no doubt about that it’s you don’t you just Just Launch 10 times kind of on a whim if it’s never been done before Chens art is going to take longer than you think to do it and to do it successfully and improve that technology ology before

We trust putting humans on it uh there’s a long way to go NASA’s contract with SpaceX requires the company to make an unmanned lunar Landing with Starship before trying one with astronauts on board but NASA still says the man Mission can happen in 2 and A2 years and that just seems like the

Time frame we’re talking about the end of 2026 seems ambitious to say the least what we’re doing is ambitious but it’s a great goal to have to do that is that goal realistic I believe it is I I believe it is Jim Free’s optimism is based on spacex’s track record with its smaller

Falcon rocket wow once it got the Falcon up and running it demonstrated it can launch a lot 96 times last year alone with both commercial and government payloads but so far Starship has yet to reach orbit even once does that concern you that that’s going to keep pushing that timeline back

Further of course it absolutely concerns me because we need them to launch multiple times SpaceX ignored our multiple requests for an interview or comment but in an interview with the daily wire in January Elon Musk said this we’re hoping to have the first humans on the moon in less than 5

Years my view of that is we have a contract with SpaceX that says they’re going to launch our crew in the end of 2026 why does it really matter when we get back to the Moon here’s why China has said it plans to send its tyona Nots

To the Moon by the end of the decade and NASA administrator Bill Nelson has publicly expressed concern naturally I don’t want uh China to get to the south pool first with humans and then say this is ours stay out to ensure that the US will plant its flag

First NASA signed a new $3 billion contract last year with blue origin the space company owned by billionaire Jeff basos to build another lunar lander and Jim free is crystal clear that he sees it as an option if SpaceX Starships keep blowing up if we have a problem with one

Uh we we’ll have another one to rely on you know if we have a a dependency on a particular aspect in in SpaceX or blue origin and it doesn’t work out then we have another Lander that can take our cruise in this battle of the stargazing billionaires bezos’s blue origin has far

Fewer launches than musk SpaceX and has been far quieter about its Ambitions until now so what we’re looking to do is not only get to the moon and back but make it reliable and repeatable and low cost John cis’s title at Blue origin is senior vice president of lunar

Permanence and it says a lot about the company’s ambition the Landers at Blue origin is going to be building are reusable we’ll launch them to lunar orbit and we’ll leave them there and we’ll refuel them in orbit so that multiple astronauts can use the same vehicle back and

Forth our cameras were among the first to be allowed inside blue Origins huge complex in Florida just next to Kennedy Space Center this is where the future is being built that’s right this is the main Factory floor for the new Glenn rocket new Glenn is blue Origins first

Heavy lift rocket its Maiden launch will be sometime this year so you can see over here we have three different second stages already in build here the First new Glenn is already out at Blue Origins launch complex it’s designed to carry all sorts of payloads including the

Lunar lander being built for NASA so this is the mark1 Lander we call this our small Lander this is the small one yes it’s actually a mockup of their cargo Lander in blue Origins Florida Lobby John calores used to work at SpaceX and he came over to Blue to help

Speed things up is there a bit of a space race between you and SpaceX so the the country needs competition we need options competition brings Innovation but you haven’t had anything close to the accomplishments that SpaceX has had at this point Have You SpaceX has done some amazing things and they’ve changed

The narrative for access to space and blue origin is looking to do the same this Lander we’re expecting to land on the moon between 12 and 16 months from today 12 and 16 months from today yes and I understand I’m saying that publicly but that’s what our team is aiming towards

But that’s for the that’s for the cargo Lander what about humans for humans we’re working with NASA on the aremis 5 Mission that’s planned for 2029 that’s not so different from Elon musk’s forecast of when SpaceX can land humans back on the moon even if it doesn’t match NASA like the starship

Blue Origins Lander will require inspace refueling but caloris insists that it and their rocket will help NASA trim costs our new Glen vehicle will be a reusable vehicle from its first mission that Lander for the astronauts is a reusable Lander so now you’re not just taking the equipment and throwing it

Away You’re reusing it for the next mission you do it again and again and again is that where the cost savings comes in exactly we are now building with NASA the infrastructure to ensure lunar permanency you have said that the emis program is the beginning not the end

Tell me what is the future you see I see us landing on Mars absolutely see us landing on Mars but we have to work through the moon to get to Mars these are magnificent goals you know going back to the moon going to Mars do we have the ability to do what we’re

Dreaming of doing you know this is NASA right this agency is destined to continue to do great things there’s no question about that what we’re telling the agency is just be more realistic there’s nothing wrong with being optimistic in fact it’s required right in this business optimism is required

The question is though can you also be more realistic

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Video “NASA’s pricey mission to send U.S. back to moon faces technical challenges | 60 Minutes” was uploaded on 03/05/2024 to Youtube Channel 60 Minutes