The White House pledged its support of the ambitious lunar exploration missions.
The Biden administration is on board with NASA’s Artemis program, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed at a press briefing—though she didn’t elaborate on whether or how the modern moon-exploring missions might shift under America’s new leadership.
Speculation about Artemis’ fate whirled since President Joe Biden was elected. Following up on a question about the program’s potential continuation posed by a reporter on Wednesday, Psaki noted during a briefing on Thursday that she had since “dug in,” and was looking forward to telling her daughter about the space agency’s big plans.
“Through the Artemis program, the United States government will work with industry and international partners to send astronauts to the surface of the Moon—another man and a woman to the Moon, which is very exciting—conduct new and exciting science, prepare for future missions to Mars and demonstrate America’s values,” she said.
Beyond landing the next man and first woman on the lunar surface, through Artemis NASA wants to establish sustainable infrastructure and human presence there to lay the necessary foundations for its ultimate aims to send astronauts to Mars. The weighty work is already underway.
“To date, only 12 humans have walked on the moon. That was half a century ago. The Artemis program—a waypoint to Mars—provides exactly the opportunity to add numbers to that,” Psaki said. “Lunar exploration has broad and bicameral support in Congress, most recently detailed in the FY2021 omnibus spending bill, and certainly we support this effort and endeavor."
That legislation she pointed to was passed in late 2020 and provides the agency with billions in Artemis-driving funds, but not the full amount NASA requested for a human landing system to be used in the effort. A group of Senate Democrats on Wednesday sent a letter to Biden, urging “robust funding” in the next fiscal year to enable the continued creation of that HLS program. In it, they said the U.S.’ major space exploration pursuits were disrupted amid the transition between administrations.
“It is now time for stability if the nation is to make progress on these initiatives,” the lawmakers wrote. “NASA has made significant progress through the Artemis program and we strongly believe that those efforts should continue in FY 2022.”
In her brief remarks on Artemis, Psaki did not make any clarifications about existing or forthcoming space-related budgets, or whether any aspects of the overall Artemis program might be altered under Biden.
This space-supporting announcement came the same week the new administration confirmed it would be continuing the work of the Space Force, as well.