NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has now released an estimate of the amount of money the agency spent on its Artemis program, which intends to create a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by the end of the decade. The bill is going to be really really high.
The Artemis program is being pursued by NASA and its principal partners with the goal of establishing a long-term presence on the Moon. The first stage of this extraordinary project will begin next year with the launch of an uninhabited capsule around the Moon. Consequently, the first return of humans to lunar soil since the final Apollo mission in 1972 is projected to occur in 2025 at the earliest possible time. A lunar outpost in orbit around our satellite is also being contemplated.
While numerous technological obstacles will need to be overcome in order to reach these objectives, another issue arises: how much will it all cost?
The NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) has conducted an investigation into the situation. In accordance with a recent audit, the United States government’s expenditure on its Artemis program is estimated to reach a total of $ 93 billion by 2025.
To put this in context with other expenditures, the United States spent $ 28 billion on the Apollo lunar exploration program between 1960 and 1973. That would be almost $ 280 billion in today’s money. Another issue to stress is that, according to the paper, “the current manufacturing cost of a single SLS / Orion system would now be projected at $ 4.1 billion per launch,” which is the cost of a single launch of the system.
Furthermore, we can see that if no efforts are taken to minimize the price of future SLS / Orion flights, NASA would “have considerable hurdles to retain the Artemis program in its present architecture.”
It’s important to remember that the development of Orion and SLS began in earnest 10 years ago. As a result, even though the Artemis program was formally proposed by the Trump administration in 2017, the $ 93 billion cost represents more than a decade of investment.
The audit also underlines the necessity for new spacesuits to be tested, since the development of such suits is trailing behind schedule. He also emphasizes the need of testing the Human Landing System (HLS) for the initiative (HLS).
NASA picked SpaceX to deliver this landing system, which will include a modified version of the company’s Starship rocket, in April of this year. Originally, the first landing of Starship on lunar soil was scheduled to take place as part of the Artemis 3 mission, which is responsible for bringing humans back to the moon.
Currently, NASA is requesting an intermediate test flight of the Starship spacecraft that will include an unmanned landing of the vehicle. The mission’s goal will be to demonstrate that the spacecraft can land on the Moon safely and then return to orbit around the Earth.