NASA asks for $1.6bn to send woman to the moon

14 May 2019, 13:08 | Updated: 14 May 2019, 15:31

NASA has asked for an extra $1.6bn (£1.2bn) from congress for its new moon mission, which aims to land a woman on the lunar surface for the first time by 2024.

The mission has been named Artemis, after the goddess of the moon in Greek mythology. Artemis was also the sister to Apollo, after whom the original moon landing missions were named.

Extra funds are being requested despite the agency's head praising Donald Trump's budget as "one of the strongest on record" after he announced a significant cut to its overall funding.

As proposed, the president's budget is $500m (£380m) less than last year but still offers $21bn (£16bn) to "continue building the key components of the exploration campaign that will send astronauts to the moon and beyond".

These components will include a new heavy-lift rocket as well as a "Lunar Gateway" outpost which will be orbiting the moon by the mid 2020s, and lunar landers to deliver cargo there by the late 2020s.

According to Associated Press, the Trump administration plans to source the money from the Pell Grant fund which subsidises college education for students from poorer backgrounds.

There have been suggestions that even if congress approves NASA's refunding plan, it still might be insufficient to land humans on the moon again by 2024.

"This additional investment, I want to be clear, is a down payment on NASA's efforts to land humans on the moon by 2024," the head of NASA Jim Bridenstine said on Monday.

"In the coming years we will need additional funds, but this is a good amount that gets us out of the gate in a very strong fashion, and sets us up for success in the future," he added.

About $1bn of the requested budget would be used to develop a commercial lunar lander which NASA would purchase from a private company.

Such a lander has been developed by Blue Origin, the private space company of the world's richest man Jeff Bezos, which was unveiled last Friday.

At the time Mr Bezos said: "We can help meet that timeline but only because we started three years ago. It's time to go back to the moon, this time to stay."

NASA administrator Mr Bridenstine was a controversial choice for his job due to his criticism of the agency's spending on climate science and lack of relevant experience.

The US senate confirmed his appointment by a vote of 50-49.

The budget is designed to meet the Space Policy Directive-1, signed by Donald Trump in December 2017, which directed the agency to renew its physical space exploration efforts.