By Mac Molli
SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, talked to Time’s Jeffrey Kluger which aired on Sunday Morning on CBS. Their conversation bounced from subject to subject but they talked in depth about the future plans of SpaceX. Elon claimed his company was ready to go to the moon within two years, adding that he expects his company to be able to send crews to Mars in four years. His claims caught the eye of NASA, which is hoping to put astronauts back on the moon by 2024, but in order to accomplish this feat, they may turn to SpaceX to help reach their goal.
NASA’s Artemis Program is a spaceflight aiming to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024. This would be the first step towards a long-term goal to build a sustainable presence on the moon, laying the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy then eventually send humans to Mars. NASA wants to send supplies up to the moon to build a base and begin mining for ice from the hundreds of million tons, turn it into oxygen, then use it to power rockets to send to Mars.
NASA will use the government-funded Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to aid their mission, but launches won’t begin until 2021. A report published in October 2018 by NASA’s Office of Inspector General looked into the cause of two and a half years worth of delays and $12.2 billion overrun cost developing their SLS, which is intended to be the most powerful rocket in history.
Vice President Mike Pence, announced back in March that President Trump would direct the space agency to send astronauts back to the moon. Pence explained the schedule for completing the SLS must be accelerated and there was potentially an open door to use rockets built by a commercial space-flight company saying, “We’re not committed to any one contractor. If our current contractors can’t meet this objective, then we’ll find ones that will. And if commercial rockets are the only way to get American astronauts to the moon in the next five years, then commercial rockets it will be.”
NASA’s Chief Financial Officer, Jeff DeWit was asked by Business Insider about Musk’s statement regarding sending Americans back to the moon, he thinks that the odds of SpaceX pulling off a private lunar landing with Starship before NASA can reach the moon are slim, but he underscored the possibility of a NASA-SpaceX partnership for the moon mission. "More power to him. I hope he does it. If he can do it, we'll partner with them, and we'll get there faster. This isn't about us doing it — it's about America doing it. He's [got] an American company. I'd love to partner with him and get that done."
DeWit also claimed NASA would "love to bring along" any commercial companies - like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin - into the Artemis program that could help the agency achieve its goals.