NASA’s Glenn Research Center is playing a key role in the mission to take astronauts back to the moon and on to Mars, Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a visit to Cleveland Monday.
“The moon is our proving ground for how do we live and work on another world, so that we can go to Mars,” Bridenstine said. “And the sooner we can prove that out on the moon, the sooner we can move on to Mars.”
NASA’s Artemis program aims to build a space station dubbed “Gateway” in lunar orbit over the next several years. Bridenstine said the mission will land a woman and man on the lunar surface in 2024.
The agency plans to establish a continued presence on the moon by 2028, part of NASA’s preparation for a possible human trip to Mars in the 2030s.
“This time, when we go to the moon, we’re going to stay,” Bridenstine said. “We’re going to have robots and landers and rovers and humans having access to any part of the moon any time they want.”
Bridenstine spoke in the center’s SLOPE lab, where researchers test rover components in soil that mimics the lunar and Martian surfaces. Much of the research that will take U.S. astronauts back to the moon and eventually to Mars is being done in Northeast Ohio, he said.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine during a visit to Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
Glenn Research Center is leading a project to develop a nuclear power source called Kilopower, which Bridenstine said astronauts could use to turn lunar ice into air, water and fuel. The Plum Brook Station in Erie County has tested parts of the Orion spacecraft, NASA’s vehicle for the moon mission. Orion is scheduled to return to Plum Brook in September for more tests.
“We’re not starting with a blank sheet of paper,” he said. “We have a rocket and a crew capsule that can get us to orbit the moon. We are now under contract with a Gateway tool because of the Glenn Research Center.”
This year, the Trump administration announced it would accelerate NASA’s plans, which had previously called for a moon landing in 2028. Additional funding, however is essential to the accelerated timeline, Bridenstine told USAToday last week. The White House has sought $1.6 billion in funding for Artemis from a surplus in the Pell Grant program.
Bridenstine, a Republican former congressman from Oklahoma, is set to address the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce, Monday evening.