The head of NASA remains confident that SpaceX’s starship can land astronauts on the moon in 2025.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson downplayed concerns about Starship’s ability to deliver astronauts to the lunar surface within two years after a SpaceX launch vehicle exploded minutes into its first test flight.

During his testimony before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee on NASA’s 2024 budget requestNelson said the Starship explosion “isn’t a huge setback for the way SpaceX does things,” per SpacePolicyOnline reported. “They are rich in hardware, which means many of these missiles are ready to go,” he continued. “They launch. If something goes wrong, they figure out what it is, they go back and launch it again.

SpaceX The Starship’s mega rocket finally exploded April 20 for a less-than-ideal orbital test flight. About four minutes after launch from Boca Chica, Texas, the Starship exploded in the sky over the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the rocket’s engines failed mid-flight, and the two-stage heavy-lift launch vehicle was forced to self-destruct after a catastrophic crash. It wasn’t exactly a failure, however, as the test showed that the Starship was able to lift off the ground and withstand intense aerodynamic loads. The test resulted in critical feedback for SpaceX to use for future improvements to Starship.

Despite the premature explosion, Nelson reiterated SpaceX’s timeline to repair the Starship launch pad and prepare another Starship vehicle for flight in at least two months. The ambitious timeline may not entirely depend on Elon Musk’s private space company, however, since Starship has been grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration pending an ongoing investigation into its detonation.

The reason NASA has invested in Starship’s ability to fly is because SpaceX is under a $2.89 billion contract use the mega rocket inside landing of people on the moon by the end of 2025 as part of the space agency’s Artemis 3 mission, and then again about Artemis 4 in 2028 according to a a separate $1.15 billion contract signed last year.

US lawmakers really don’t want NASA, and until an extension of SpaceX, is behind schedule to land on the moon amid fears that China could take the lead. China recently announced that it plans to will send its astronauts to the moon in 2030. “I want to be clear that I will do everything in my power to ensure that the next astronauts on the moon are Americans.” House spokesman Frank Lucas said during Thursday’s hearing, according to SpacePolicyOnline.

At the same time, the House is anticipating budget cuts that could potentially affect NASA’s Artemis timeline. This week Parliament passed legislation on deficit reduction measures the goal is to reduce discretionary spending. If enacted, the bill could put limits on NASA’s budget. “It would be a disaster. We would be late,” Nelson said in response to potential budget cuts SpaceNews.

NASA is already struggling to manage its budget, as the space agency devotes most of its funding to its Artemis program and Mars sample return mission. The Mars mission, which was scheduled to launch in 2028, received $822.3 million in the 2023 spending bill, and NASA requested another $949.3 million of the total $8.26 billion in science spending. budget proposal for 2024. Other missions have suffered due to budget problems, viz NASA’s VERITAS mission to Venus.

The US government is likely to prioritize leadership in the new space race to the moon over planetary missions. It must be said, however, that NASA’s commercial partnerships are sometimes beyond the control of lawmakers, and now companies like SpaceX must replicate their mega-rocket. As for whether the Elon Musk-owned company can deliver the Starship on time, well, let’s just say we’re having a hard time getting that bombshell out of our heads.

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