Space Launch System On Launchpad. 3D Illustration. NASA Images Not Used.
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Why There Haven't Been More Trips to the Moon, According to Astronauts
This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 17 mission and the last time humans landed on the moon. When NASA formally launched its Artemis program in 2017, not only to take astronauts back to the moon but also to build a lunar south pole base and establish a permanent presence, it raised an inevitable question: what took so long?
Astronauts, like the legendary Buzz Aldrin, believed budget and politics were the main barriers that kept humanity from returning to the moon. During testimony to Congress in 2015, astronaut Walter Cunningham summed up the difficulties: "Manned exploration is the most expensive space venture and, consequently, the most difficult for which to obtain political support."
With the Artemis program, NASA aimed to make space travel more affordable by working with the commercial space sector to help fund the program. Though NASA is responsible for the mission, it's working with companies like SpaceX, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and others on different elements of the hardware involved.
Even with NASA’s reliance on private partnerships, Artemis still won’t be cheap. Earlier this year, NASA Inspector General Paul Martin admitted to the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics that each of the first four Artemis launches were on track to cost $4.1 billion apiece, CNBC reported, as the multi-year project spiraled over budget.