Bridenstine lays groundwork for Artemis testimony to Senate committee

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Monday that he will have the following message for lawmakers when he testifies on Capitol Hill on Wednesday: The 2024 moon landing may cost “significantly less” than his previous estimate.

Bridenstine told CNN in June that the 2024 moon program, dubbed Artemis, will require an additional $20 billion to $30 billion over the next five years, but in a Monday teleconference with reporters said spending by commercial partners could make a “big difference” in lowering the price tag.

This time when we go to the moon, we have these commercial partners that want to invest their own money, and I’m talking about a lot of money,” he said.

Observers expect Bridenstine to be asked about the cost of the lunar program Wednesday, when he appears before the Senate Commerce Committee. Lawmakers have urged the White House and NASA to firmly estimate the cost of Artemis since the 2024 timeline was announced in March. So far, the Trump administration has amended its budget request for NASA to include an additional $1.6 billion for Artemis in fiscal 2020, but Congress has yet to approve the funds.

Bridenstine said he will share with lawmakers the “challenges with coming up with a very specific number for the entire cost” of Artemis. “I do believe that as we go forward that this program will be more sustainable than the programs in the past, largely because it’s not as expensive as the programs in the past.”

Bridenstine also could face questions from lawmakers about last week’s management shuffle. Bridenstine informed NASA employees last week in a memo that Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration and operations, and one of his deputies, Bill Hill, had been reassigned “in an effort to meet” the 2024 deadline. Hill oversaw the development of the late and overbudget Space Launch System rockets that would launch astronauts toward the moon.

“Cost and schedule matter, so we are working rapidly to put together a team that can reassess the cost and schedule of these programs and create a realistic baseline that we can work toward,” Bridenstine said Monday.

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Bridenstine lays groundwork for Artemis testimony to Senate committee