NASA proposed budget announced amid Boeing troubles
Kennedy Space Center, FL - On Monday, NASA’s Administrator gave a speech about all the exciting things that are going to be happening in the year ahead in space.
But there is a huge problem that went public late last week. Boeing is struggling with a batch of software malfunctions and because the storied aerospace giant is a key player in NASA’s future, experts say the timing is bad.
"Friends, we are the 'Artemis' generation and we are going," Jim Bridenstine said Monday, referring to future missions to the moon and the goal of colonization.
NASA is re-committing to the deadline of putting man back on the moon and the first woman, in 2024. The Artemis program is one highlight of the proposed 25.2 billion dollar budget for NASA just released by the White House.
This year marks the first time NASA has direct funding for the human lunar landing vehicles since Apollo. However, Boeing is building the next generation of rockets that will launch those vehicles - the SLS system- and the company is on shaky ground.
Space expert Dr. Ken Kremer says they have fallen so far behind schedule and so over budget on the Starliner capsule that NASA and congress need to be concerned.
"This is absolutely the right question to ask, 'can Boeing do the job,' since they didn’t do it on the capsule which is a lot simpler," Kremer said.
In December when Boeing tried to send its astronaut capsule to the International Space Station (ISS) for an unmanned practice run -- it never made it to the right orbit and had to come back down to earth.
NASA now says in reviewing that failed dress rehearsal, more glitches have been discovered.
Of the three problems, the most concerning is that the crew module would’ve been damaged in the separation sequence from the service module right before reentry, and the consequences of that would have been catastrophic.
"Potentially they could’ve been killed... if there were astronauts inside... that’s why there’s no glossing over this." Kremer said.
Boeing says it’s looking at every part and every code involved in that test. We asked Boeing for an on-camera interview, the company declined. Dr. Kremer says a crewed mission from Boeing in 2020 is highly unlikely.
"I do not think Starliner will fly with astronauts this year." Kremer predicted, "They are waiting for NASA to tell them if they have to do an unmanned test again. They are probably going to have to, so 2020 is unlikely."
SpaceX will launch to the ISS in May or June. NASA explains the order of its objectives as: "Station -Moon-Mars."
If you think of each as a round, Boeing is absolutely down in round one.