In the nearly two months since Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to return to the Moon by 2024, space agency engineers have been working to put together a plan that leverages existing technology, large projects nearing completion, and commercial rockets to bring this about, according to Ars Technica.
Last week, an updated plan that demonstrated a human landing in 2024, annual sorties to the lunar surface thereafter, and the beginning of a Moon base by 2028, began circulating within the agency.
A graphic, shown provides information about each of the major launches needed to construct a small Lunar Gateway, stage elements of a lunar lander there, fly crews to the Moon and back, and conduct refueling missions.
This decade-long plan, which entails 37 launches of private and NASA rockets, as well as a mix of robotic and human landers, culminates with a “Lunar Surface Asset Deployment” in 2028, likely the beginning of a surface outpost for long-duration crew stays.
Developed by the agency’s senior human spaceflight manager, Bill Gerstenmaier, this plan is everything Pence asked for—an urgent human return, a Moon base, a mix of existing and new contractors.
One thing missing is its cost. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has asked for an additional $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2020 as a down payment to jump-start lander development. But all of the missions in this chart would cost much, much more. Sources continue to tell Ars that the internal projected cost is $6 billion to $8 billion per year on top of NASA’s existing budget of about $20 billion.
In July, NASA will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch.
President Donald Trump previously announced his administration would be “restoring [NASA] to greatness” by going back to the Moon, and later, Mars. “I am updating my budget to include an additional $1.6 billion so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!” he wrote via Twitter.