NASA is considering sending two astronauts to its first heavy-lift launch Orion. These changes to the original plan might be a result of the request made by President Donald Trump, who asked NASA to send Americans once again to the Moon.

NASA’s super rocket SLS was scheduled to fly its first Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) by the end of 2018. This mission would be followed by the EM-2 somewhere between 2021 and 2023. However, given the new requests of the White House, the first launch of NASA’ super rocket might be rescheduled, while they evaluate how feasible it is to add a crew to the mission and how much extra money it would take.

The Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle was originally part of NASA’s Constellation Program, which is no longer an active NASA program. Image Credit;

“This study will determine how much additional time is needed … to add crew to EM-1,” Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, told reporters during a teleconference on Friday. “We will definitely have a [later launch date]. We also recognize we’ll need to add some additional funding.” 

Trumps wants NASA to send astronauts to the moon aboard Orion capsule 

Back in 1962, John F. Kennedy challenged NASA to put some astronauts on the lunar surface, and now, more than five decades later, Trump is asking the agency to return. Trump want NASA to accelerate and evaluate the chances of making his new mission a crewed one.

NASA’s plan was to launch for the first time a new generation of rockets, the so-called Space Launch System (SLS). According to the plan, which started in 2011, NASA was getting ready to fly its super rocket in the Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) in late 2018. They launched an Orion Capsule to orbit the moon and then return to Earth. The launch of the EM-2, after several upgrades, is scheduled between 2021 and 2023.

After the White House’s request, NASA said that it would take about a month to study the feasibility and the resources it would require to accelerate that plan. The idea is to combine the EM-1 with the EM-2 to arrange the cabin and pressurize it with breathable air.

It would be just like an Apollo 8

If this is possible, the capsule will be carrying two astronauts into high Earth orbit; they would continue to orbit the moon just before returning to Earth. They would be from eight to nine days in space. Some have dared to call the mission Apollo 8 but with a bigger space rocket.

Nonetheless, this is not an easy task, it would require moving the scheduled date and an important amount of extra funding to develop and test the new systems.

“From our previous assessment, we know it’s going to take a significant amount of money – money that would be required fairly quickly,” said Bill Hill on Friday, who is NASA’s lead manager for the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft.

Though this mission would not bring up such important scientific discoveries as its predecessor, it would offer some advantages to NASA given the fact that it would mean getting the life support system ready before it was thought.

Source: NASA