NASA chief announces Alabama facility as moon spacecraft headquarters
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[August 17, 2019]
By Joey Roulette
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - NASA Administrator
Jim Bridenstine on Friday said Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama
will anchor the U.S. space agency's program to build a spacecraft to put
astronauts back on the moon by 2024, a boon for the state and a
disappointment for Texas.
Bridenstine, accompanied by U.S. lawmakers from Alabama, made the
announcement about the NASA Artemis lunar program at the Huntsville
facility in front of a 149-foot-tall (45 meters) test version of a fuel
tank for NASA's heavy-lift moon rocket, the Space Launch System.
The announcement, which promises to bring jobs and prestige to Alabama,
disappointed lawmakers from Texas who had lobbied for the lunar lander
program to be headquartered at the Johnson Space Center in Houston,
which under NASA's announcement will play a secondary role.
"Now, I will say this was not a decision that was made lightly,"
Bridenstine said 363 jobs will be created following the announcement,
140 of which will be in Huntsville and 87 in Houston.
The Johnson Space Center, which managed Apollo and other NASA human
spaceflight programs in the past, will help assimilate U.S. astronauts
with the lunar lander and manage all Artemis missions beginning in 2020,
when the program's debut unmanned flight to space is due, NASA said.
"I am disappointed by the decision from NASA to not place the lunar
lander program management at the Johnson Space Center," Republican U.S.
Representative Brian Babin of Texas, who had planned to attend the
ceremony but canceled on Thursday, said in a statement.
"All the NASA agencies work together. This is not where Marshall does
everything - they do only a part of it," said U.S. Representative Robert
Aderholt of Alabama, the top Republican on the House of Representatives
appropriations panel that provides funds for NASA. "What's important is
that we have the funding to make this happen."
[to top of second column]
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks to media during a visit to
NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility where engineers are preparing to
add the final section to the core stage of the rocket that will
power NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar mission, in New Orleans, Louisiana,
U.S., August 15, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
Bridenstine in May requested that Congress increase NASA's proposed
budget for fiscal 2020, which begins Oct. 1, by $1.6 billion, much
of which would be earmarked to seed commercial development of the
human lunar landing system.
The Artemis mission is likely to cost $20 billion to $30 billion
dollars over five years.
"As NASA moves forward with their plans I will use every tool at my
disposal to ensure the Johnson Space Center remains the crown jewel
in human space exploration," Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who had
urged Bridenstine to choose Johnson Space Center, said in a
Companies including billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos' Blue
Origin, Elon Musk's SpaceX and Lockheed Martin Corp are developing
different potential components of the lunar lander and will compete
for NASA funds under competitive bids due to be solicited later in
(Reporting by Joey Roulette; Editing by Will Dunham)
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