The space agency says that $8 million has been awarded to these selected teams, which include four NASA research centers, the universities of Arizona, Cal-Berkeley and New Mexico, and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and Mount Holyoke College/Planetary Science Institute. EM-1 was originally scheduled for December of a year ago and previously in 2017. Distributed across all 50 states in civil, commercial and military space, the aerospace and defense industry is crucial to USA competitiveness across the globe and to American leadership in science, security, entrepreneurship and human exploration of space. This discovery opens doors for future lunar colonies, where astronauts could mine the moon for water and convert it to hydrogen, which could then be used as fuel. "So, between now and 2020, we would have to make that a reality". Bridenstine also mentioned the "amazing capability that exists right now" in the USA, and that means only two commercial possibilities: SpaceX and United Launch Alliance.
Orion successfully launched on a 4 1/2 hour mission before re-entering Earth's atmosphere at a speed of nearly 20,000 mph and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.
No rocket in existence today is capable of lifting both elements together, due to their weight, which is why NASA had said it needed the more powerful SLS. The budget fully funds SLS and Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems to launch at the earliest technically available Exploration Mission-1 and Exploration Mission-2 launch dates.
Congress initially wanted a first flight in late 2016.
But NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told a Senate hearing that the "SLS is struggling to meet its schedule" and won't be ready in time for the EM-1 mission.
SLS is created to pack a powerful 8.4 million pounds of thrust at liftoff where as the Delta IV Heavy is more than 2 million pounds at liftoff. The move to a private-launch could save the agency almost $700 million. While that is about $550 million below what was expected, NASA will get $263 million more than previous year. "They serve as role models to young women in their pursuit of careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics", NASA stated.
Just last week, SpaceX successfully completed the first test flight of its new Dragon capsule designed for astronauts. The project has already cost $12 billion. It means more delays.
Even with a commercial launch provider, NASA's Orion spacecraft and the service module still have a way to go before launch. The rocket, which is being built primarily by Boeing, would launch Orion - the lunar capsule built by Lockheed Martin that would carry the crew. They came from the second largest applicant pool Nasa has ever received - more than 6,100.
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