NASA's Bridenstine: First the Moon, then Mars

NASA is setting its sights on Mars, but to get there, the space agency must first return to the Moon.

President Donald Trump is looking to give NASA $21 billion, which represents a nearly six percent increase over last year’s request, according to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.  That budget request must still be approved by Congress. 

During a news conference on Monday, Bridenstine said a sustained human presence on the Moon must be a priority, adding that a manned mission to Mars will involve things that can be practiced and fine-tuned on the lunar surface: precision landing and advanced life-support.

“We will go to the Moon in the next decade with innovative, new technologies and systems to explore more locations across the lunar surface than ever before. This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay. We will use what we learn as we move forward to the Moon to take the next giant leap -– sending astronauts to Mars," he said.

Bridenstine emphasized that the Space Launch System (a super heavy-lift expendable launch vehicle), the Orion spacecraft (a multi-purpose crew vehicle), and Gateway (a lunar-orbit space station) will continue to be the backbone for deep space exploration. 

“Beginning with a series of small commercial delivery missions to the Moon as early as this year, we will use new landers, robots and eventually humans by 2028 to conduct science across the entire lunar surface," he said.

A manned mission to Mars could possibly happen in the 2030s or 2040s, but in the meantime, NASA said it will use unmanned missions to explore the red planet.  

To learn more about NASA’s fiscal year 2020 budget, visit the NASA budget page on its website.