In a blog post reproduced below, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine raises a number of objections to a draft authorization bill released by a House subcommittee. [See House NASA Authorization Bill Focuses on Sending Astronauts to Mars; Moon Seen as Interim Step and NASA Authorization Bill Introduced in House for details.]
by Jim Bridenstine
I would like to thank the Committee for producing a comprehensive NASA authorization bill. I am particularly encouraged that the bill is proceeding on a bipartisan basis, reflecting a consensus on a Moon to Mars approach. Maintaining a bipartisan, consensus approach is critical to constancy of purpose and supporting a long-term national commitment to the human exploration of the Moon and Mars. The bill envisions a destination of Mars while supporting missions to the Moon as the most effective strategy to achieve that critical, shared goal. NASA would appreciate the opportunity to work with the Committee in a bipartisan way, as we did with the Senate Commerce Committee, on some modifications.
I am concerned that the bill imposes some significant constraints on our approach to lunar exploration. As you know, NASA has successfully fostered the development of a rapidly expanding commercial economy for access to space. We would like to continue building on this success as we develop the most efficient mission architectures and partnership approaches to accomplish our shared goals.
NASA seeks to expand the sphere of economic activity deeper into space by conducting space exploration and development with commercial and international partners. Without the dynamic participation of commercial partners, our chances of creating a sustainable exploration program are significantly diminished. In particular, we are concerned that the bill’s approach to developing a human lander system as fully government-owned and directed would be ineffective. The approach established by the bill would inhibit our ability to develop a flexible architecture that takes advantage of the full array of national capabilities – government and private sector – to accomplish national goals. NASA would appreciate the opportunity to work with the Committee to develop language that would support a broader national and international effort that would maximize progress toward our shared exploration goals through the efficient application of our available resources.
NASA is fully committed to a lunar exploration program that supports and enables human missions to Mars. The Committee should be aware that the exploration of Mars is a very challenging goal both technically and from a resource perspective. If we are going to accomplish this goal, we will need the flexibility to rapidly develop technical expertise using the Moon and to fully engage commercial and international partners. We do think that the bill’s concerns for limiting activities on the Moon could be counterproductive. If we are going to explore Mars in a safe and sustainable way, we will require a strong in situ resource utilization capability and significant technology development using the surface of the Moon. NASA would appreciate more flexibility in defining lunar surface activities that may contribute directly to Mars exploration.
NASA subject matter experts are now closely reviewing the available bill text to identify issues and concerns of a more technical, detailed nature, and we would appreciate an opportunity to share the results of this review with the Committee at the appropriate time.
We would welcome an opportunity to work with the Committee on a bill that would accommodate a broader partnership approach. I appreciate the Committee’s bipartisan efforts and congratulate you on producing this bipartisan consensus in favor of a Moon to Mars exploration program.