NASA chief wants to send people to the Moon — ‘stay’

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine delivers remarks at the Johnson Space Center in Houston on Aug. 2, 2018.

(Bill Ingalls/NASA)

HOUSTON — Jim Bridenstine wants to make sure that there is never another day like the man is not in the space.

“In fact,” the NASA administrator said: “we want a lot of people in the space.”

Bridenstine, who became the space agency’s chief in April, recently went with and other reporters during a visit to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, in which he told what he saw as his priority for NASA. [9 Astronauts Flies the 1st Flights on the SpaceX and Boeing Spacecraft]

“If you look at the history, look back at the end of the Apollo program, 1972, when we didn’t go back to the moon… you look back and there was a period there after Apollo and before the space shuttles when we had a gap in human spaceflight capability,” Bridenstine said. “And then you go forward and look at the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011, and now we’re getting to the point where we are ready to fly commercial crew. We have a gap of about eight years in our ability to fly crew into space.

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“If we think of the [end of the] International Space Station, we want to make sure that there is a gap not of come,” he said. “I think it’s important to do everything in our power to prevent another hole to arise, and that is why it is important to start this conversation now.”

To the moon

Bridenstine thinks NASA has a chance to aim for the moon almost a decade ago.

“Go back to 2009, the United States, through NASA, a critical discovery, that the moon has hundreds of billions of tons of water ice. For me, that have changed our direction immediately,” he said. “From 1969 when we first landed on the moon, to 2009, a lot of people believed that the moon was bone-dry. In 2008, the Indians did an experiment, and she realized there was water ice on the moon and then we did an experiment and realized how much water on the ice would be on the moon at the poles.

“So the question is — during those 40 years, we have missed that. What have we missed?”

Now, as NASA administrator, Bridenstine is running for President Donald Trump in the direction of returning the astronauts to the moon.

“We need to share more of the moon than we have ever been to ever before,” he said. “If you look at the Apollo program, we had six landings, all in the equatorial regions of the moon, and we don’t have the full perspective, the full understanding, science and knowledge.”

Bridenstine also said he sees the moon as a way forward to the points further out in the solar system.

“I think a lot of people miss the fact that the moon is a great testing ground for all technologies, and human performance capabilities needed to survive on another planet and the ability to develop in-situ use of the opportunities,” Bridenstine said. “The moon stands for the possibilities to do that, an activity for the first time, than doing it on Mars for the first time, in which you can not come home for another two years.”

“Gateways” forward

Bridenstine said that the key to open the moon and to Mars, building “Gateways” — small, space-station-like platforms that serve as a lunar orbit outpost, or transports for the points to the outside.

“The [first] Gateway is going to be in a near-linear halo orbit. It is not optimal for reaching the surface of the moon, but offers a very low propulsion power — we’re talking about solar-electric propulsion — it allows us to stay in a job for a very, very long period of time,” Bridenstine said. “And it allows us, the United States of America, to invest in the critical infrastructure from which our commercial partners can go back and forth from Earth to the lunar orbit, in which our commercial partners can build their own landers to the surface of the moon.

“What we want to do is to enable more people to have access to the lunar surface than ever before and more people have access to lunar orbit than ever before,” he said. “The interfaces we have on the Gateway, or the power or docking, it is all going to be published on the internet. We want everyone — including those countries that historically do not have large space budgets — to look on the internet and say: “Look, we could build something that would actually be effective in the Gateway.'”

Bridenstine made clear that the Gateway will not be another International Space Station. It will not be permanently manned, but would be able to support people for 30 – to 60-day of the science missions. A second Gateway, although, perhaps what carries astronauts to Mars, perhaps by around 2030, he said.

“The first Gateway is on the moon, but I think that the second Gateway, a deep-space transport, re-using commercial and international partners, makes it possible for us to go to Mars,” Bridenstine said. “What we want to do, is to the surface of the moon, to prove that we can do it and be done again.

“We want to go for a stay. And the Gateway-to my opinion — I am convinced — and that allows us to take advantage of the commercial and international partners in a more robust way, so we are there to stay, it allows us to share more of the moon than ever before, and it allows us to get to Mars,” he said. “There is no other architecture that I have gotten, given the current budgets that we have, that says everything.”

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