Are astronauts paid

Who should pay for that?

Regardless of whether NASA can keep to the tight schedule or not - one thing is already clear: It will be expensive. Because in order to get the Artemis program off the ground in the next five years, NASA and its subcontractors will need significantly more human and material resources. But where should the money come from?

Until astronauts walk around on the surface of the moon again, a lot of effort and costs are necessary. © NASA

Total cost of $ 20 billion to $ 30 billion

So far, NASA receives around 20 billion US dollars a year from the US government. From this, however, it has to deal with the entire range of its space travel activities - from satellites in earth orbit to the contribution to the International Space Station to the unmanned missions on Mars and other celestial bodies in the solar system. There is hardly anything left for a manned mission to the moon.

How much the Artemis program will cost was a long time lagging behind NASA. Administrator Jim Bridenstine only gave hard numbers in mid-June 2019: he calculated the total costs for the moon landing including preparatory missions at around 20 to 30 billion US dollars. NASA's budget would have to be increased by an additional six to eight billion US dollars per year - that would be an injection of money that has not been seen since the Apollo era.

Money from the ISS budget?

But where do you get it from? This question is currently the subject of controversy in Washington. Because the decision on the budget is not made by the US President - even if he presumably wanted to - but by the US Congress. First of all, a funding proposal must be approved by the responsible congress committees before it comes to a vote in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The money will only flow if a majority of both parties agree.

The Congress ultimately decides on the budget. © Podbregar

Some of the money for the Artemis program could come from the US budget for the ISS. Trump signaled some time ago that he wanted to reduce the direct payments for the maintenance of the space station. Instead, more commercial providers are to step in and, for example, pay for the transport and implementation of experiments on the ISS. Refinancing by space tourists is also being considered - at least by Trump.

Education against the lunar program

Another proposal by the White House is to take money from surpluses from what is known as the Pell Grant Fund. From this pot, scholarships are paid for students in need. The fund reserve is intended to ensure that this is still possible even in poor economic times. But the lunar program threatens to reduce the educational opportunities for the socially disadvantaged. It is therefore unlikely that this proposal will find a majority in the predominantly democratic House of Representatives.

At the moment, NASA employees fear that at least part of the Artemis funding could be borne by other departments - for example, earth exploration or unmanned missions. Administrator Bridenstine categorically denied this just a few weeks ago: "We cannot cannibalize one part of the agency to feed another part," he said.

If, however, not enough money comes from outside, some projects could face a budget cut. This was also recently admitted by Bill Gerstenmaier, head of NASA's manned space program: “I think we won't get the entire budget back. We will therefore have to make some cuts within the authority. "

Whether and from where NASA will get the money it needs for the accelerated lunar program remains open for the time being - and thus also whether there will really be a moon landing in 2024.

5th July 2019

- Nadja Podbregar