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Recap: Administrator Town Hall on Lunar Missions

April 1, 2019

On Monday, April 1, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine hosted an agencywide town-hall meeting to address employee questions stemming from the announcement that NASA will return American astronauts to the surface of the Moon in 2024. Highlights from the meeting are outlined below.

How will we meet the 2024 deadline?

Administrator Bridenstine made it clear that we are going to move quickly to go to the Moon with international and commercial partners. The new Moon to Mars Directorate at NASA Headquarters will be focused on the mission development that will make landing on the Moon in 2024 a reality. Bridenstine also emphasized that all options are on the table, and that we will achieve this goal by any means necessary.

Will the administration and Congress provide adequate funding to return to the Moon in 2024?

The president has tasked NASA with accomplishing this goal by any means necessary. Administrator Bridenstine made it clear that landing humans on the lunar surface will require additional means, and that he is committed to working with the executive and legislative branches to achieve across-the-board consensus about the funding necessary for this important endeavor.

How will we ensure safety as NASA moves quickly to send humans to the Moon?

The administrator made it clear that we are not going to land on the Moon in 2024 unless we can do it safely. He also emphasized that technological developments and understanding independent reviews will allow NASA to land astronauts on the Moon safely in 2024.

What locations will astronauts will land at on the Moon?

The vice president tasked NASA with sending astronauts to the South Pole of the Moon. The South Pole is important because it has resources that will allow NASA to return to the Moon sustainably. To land astronauts on the poles of the Moon, NASA will rely on the Gateway, which will enable access to new parts of the Moon.

What are NASA’s goals for the first crew to accomplish on the surface?

The first woman and the next man on the Moon will prove technology that will be vital as NASA sends astronauts on future missions to Mars. The mission will allow NASA to learn to live and work sustainably on another world.

What capabilities need to be developed?

These missions will, first and foremost, require the Gateway. This will not be another International Space Station around the Moon, but a tool that offers speed. From the Gateway, astronauts will need descent and ascent modules for missions to and from the surface.

Are we still counting on launching Orion on the Space Launch System (SLS)?

The best option is to launch SLS with Orion and the European Service Module. NASA is not going to compromise safety, but is going to leave all options on the table to prepare to land on the Moon by 2024. NASA is currently looking at ways to expedite the launch of the SLS.

How will we manage programmatic changes with the administration?

This is not a political or partisan mission. No one knows what the world will look like in 2024, but we know that we will land on the Moon in 2024.

What are the big-picture takeaways for NASA employees?

“This is a big charge and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Bridenstine said. “This is the moment that you will tell your children and grandchildren about one day.”

Vice President Mike Pence stated during his announcement the week prior that NASA would land humans on the Moon in 2024, and that “History is written by those who dare to dream big and do the impossible.”

Noah Michelsohn, Johnson Space Center