The NSC Users’ Advisory Group — a group of government and NASA officials headed by Vice President Mike Pence — was presented with a timeline for reaching and settling the moon in the late 2020s, Vice’s Motherboard reported.
NASA head Jim Bridenstine and NASA Associate Administrator for Policy and Strategy Tom Cremins decided to offer the plan after Trump suggested NASA should return to the moon, signing an order to that effect during a December 2017 ceremony in the Oval Office.
The NSC announced earlier in October that returning to the moon would a priority of Trump’s administration. Some National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) members have suggested it would be better for NASA to focus on a manned Mars mission, which it hopes to complete sometime in the 2030s. However, both Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) — who heads the NSTC — and Pence have expressed support for Trump’s lunar ambitions.
There are budgetary restrictions that could torpedo the proposal. During the Thursday NSC meeting, Bridenstine said that if a proposed 5 percent cut to NASA’s budget in 2020 goes through, a moon mission will be out of the question.
“If that [cut] materializes, no, we’re not going to have what we need to go to the moon,” Bridenstine said, reported SpaceNews. “We’re certainly not going to have what we need to put boots on the moon.”
Some companies have already announced the development of technologies that could take humans to the moon or Mars. In October, Lockheed Martin released plans for creating a reusable, crewed lunar lander; Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has proposed sending metric tons of cargo to the moon in 2022, though it’s not clear what that cargo would be; and Elon Musk has announced his company SpaceX’s plan to send Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and a group of artists around the moon in the Big Falcon Rocket in 2023.