The NASA Office of Inspector General has published its 2020 report detailing the challenges the space agency faces and how they may shape the next few years. A total of seven challenges are listed, the first revolving around NASA’s ambitious goal to return humans to the Moon in 2024. According to the report, it may not be able to achieve that deadline.
NASA’s Office of Inspector General is tasked by the Reports Consolidation Act of 2020 to conduct an independent assessment for the biggest challenges facing the space agency, including ones related to performance and management. This year’s assessment identified seven challenges:
1: Landing the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024
2: Improving the management of major projects
3: Sustaining a human presence in Low Earth Orbit
4: Attracting and retaining a highly-skilled workforce
5: Improving oversight of contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements
6: Managing and mitigating cybersecurity risk
7: Addressing outdated infrastructure and facilities
Focusing on the first and biggest challenge, the assessment concluded that NASA will be ‘hard-pressed to land astronauts on the Moon by the end of 2024.’ In fact, the report states that NASA will need ‘stable and timely’ funding in addition to ‘strong, consistent, sustained leadership’ all the way from NASA to the POTUS if it hopes to hit this goal at any point near its ‘ambitious’ 2024 goal.
Summing up the reasons for its assessment, the NASA OIG report explains:
For its part, NASA must determine the true long-term costs of its human exploration programs, set realistic schedules, define system requirements and mission planning, form or firm up international partnerships, and leverage commercial space capabilities. Over the past decade, our oversight work has found NASA consistently struggling to address each of these significant issues and the Artemis mission’s accelerated timetable will likely further exacerbate these challenges.
The full report can be downloaded from the NASA OIG website here [PDF].