The cost of a permanent lunar base by 2028 has been laid out.
Returning to the Moon by 2024 will cost between $20 and $30 billion, according to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. Speaking to CNN on June 13th, he said: "It would be $20 to $30 billion on top of the normal NASA budget, but of course that would be spread over five years."
The big difference with this new lunar push is that it would no longer involve simply sending astronauts to the Moon and bringing them back, as with the Apollo programme in the 1960s and 1970s. The aim now is to first create an orbiting lunar station, which would then enable construction of a permanent manned base on the lunar surface by 2028, which would then be the foundation of a manned mission to Mars currently planned for the 2030s. This new space programme is called Artemis, named for the twin sister of Apollo.
"The reason the moon matters, when you talk about going to Mars, Earth and Mars are on the same side of the sun once every 26 months. That means when we go to Mars we have to be willing to stay for a period of two years," Bridenstine explained. "We don't want to have to learn how to live and work on another world for the first time at Mars, because the cost is too high."
Bridenstine went on to describe the cost as a "short term investment", at the end of which "the American people will have a programme they can be very proud of for the long term".
President Trump has proposed a funding boost of $1.6 billion for NASA in 2020, but has sent mixed messages regarding the Artemis project on Twitter, where he recently insisted "For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon - We did that 50 years ago."