NASA is dependent upon Congress working together to pass a fiscal year 2020 budget on time – and providing the agency with additional funds – to meet its projected timeline to field the Space Launch System (SLS) by 2020 and land on the moon in 2024, Administrator Jim Bridenstine said April 1.

Speaking during a town hall meeting at NASA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., Bridenstine said the agency will require “additional means” to meet its current goals, and he intends to work with his former colleagues up on Capitol Hill to receive them. Before joining NASA in 2018, Bridenstine served as a Republican in the House beginning in 2018, representing Oklahoma’s 1st congressional district.

Artist’s illustration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). Photo: NASA.

“I don’t think anybody can take this level of commitment necessary unless there are additional means, and so that’s what I intend to support as we go forward,” Bridenstine said.

NASA’s FY ‘20 presidential budget request included $1.78 billion for the Boeing [BA]-led SLS program, about $375 million less than was enacted for the program in the FY ‘19 budget. The total FY ‘20 NASA budget request stands at just over $21 billion, about $480 million less funding than was appropriated the previous year.

Bridenstine acknowledged during a March 27 hearing before the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee that the agency may not make its goal of achieving first flight of the SLS by mid-2020, but added that he is pushing for accelerated development of the system.

During the townhall, he also noted NASA’s history of making plans to return to the moon, only to be thwarted by lack of resources.

“It is my objective to get the resources necessary to accomplish the objective,” he said. “It is also my commitment to make sure that people understand the history here, and that we can have a great, ambitious goal, but without the resources, it won’t be accomplished.”

NASA requires bipartisan support to pass a budget on time and keep the agency on the scheduled course, Bridenstine added.

“There is a high probability that we’re going to end up in a continuing resolution” for fiscal year 2020, he noted. “We can’t get a new ascent module under a continuing resolution. We can’t get a descent module. … We can’t get to the surface of the moon under a continuing resolution.”