Building Artemis Back Better

Acting NASA chief says 2024 Moon landing no longer a "realistic" target, Ars Technica

"NASA's acting administrator said Wednesday evening that the goal of landing humans on the Moon by 2024 no longer appears to be feasible. "The 2024 lunar landing goal may no longer be a realistic target due to the last two years of appropriations, which did not provide enough funding to make 2024 achievable," the acting administrator, Steve Jurczyk, told Ars. "In light of this, we are reviewing the program for the most efficient path forward."

Keith's note: This is, of course true - but it is not the whole story. It was widely assumed within NASA that when Vice President Pence suddenly advanced the Artemis lunar landing date to 2024 that it would be rather hard to make that happen. But NASA had to accept that challenge - and they did and worked hard to make it happen. But it did not happen. The prime reason for the problems lay at the feet of the chronic delays and cost overruns for SLS and its associated ground support systems. Even when NASA got the money it needed it still fell behind year after year as both the GAO and OIG noted with consistent regularity.

Then, of course, there was the ever-changing Gateway which added and then discarded features faster than the NASA graphic artists could update the pretty website imagery. And the lunar lander grew larger and more complex every time NASA mentioned it. So ... Jurczyk is right - he is just not fessing up to the whole story. It is mea culpa time for NASA.

NASA is as much to blame for the Artemis quagmire as past Congresses and White House Administrations are. Now, a new Administration has thrown a hopeful lifeline to the Artemis program albeit a vague one. The pandemic, a crashing economy, exploding government debt, and dysfunctional politics is going to force every program - in every agency - to redouble its explanation as to why it needs to be done.

The Biden Administration's slogan "Build Back Better" should be something that everyone at NASA pays attention to. Artemis is going to change - and be fixed - for the "better". A reformatted Artemis may well accomplish much of its original intent - but NASA may also be directed to focus human spaceflight efforts elsewhere as well. But refocusing of human spaceflight at NASA - regardless of what that ends up being - is only going to work out well if NASA stops the whole smoke and mirrors, shift the blame, give-us-what-we-want-because-we-say-so, tactics and openly admits that it did things wrong with Artemis.

Moreover, instead of being an outlier when it comes to overall national priorities, NASA needs to start becoming more of a "whole of government" player. Otherwise it may just find itself standing there with an empty, outstretched hand. NASA is also going to have to learn to let go of some things and adopt other novel approaches in the process of building back Artemis better. As soon as the new TBD NASA Administrator arrives the agency needs to hit the ground running.

- Big Aerospace Still Wants Everything That Trump Promised, earlier post
- Uh Oh: The Space Community Is Writing A White Paper - Again, earlier post
- Artemis Human Lander Contract Decision Delayed, earlier post
- GAO On Artemis: Behind Schedule, Over Cost, Lacking Clear Direction, earlier post
- Surprise: SLS Will Cost 30% More Than The Last Big Cost Increase, earlier post
- NASA OIG: Surprise, Surprise: Orion Is Behind Schedule, Over Cost, And Lacks Transparency, earlier post
- Denial At Boeing Regarding Poor Performance On SLS, earlier post
- You Can't Exert National Prestige With A Rocket That Does Not Fly, earlier post
- previous SLS/Orion posts

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on February 18, 2021 11:54 AM.

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