NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Talks Moon Exploration.

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NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Artfully Shifts Message While Still Keeping Moon in the Agency’s Sights

In an interview with The Hill‘s Krystal Ball, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine talked Friday about what makes the Artemis mission so important. Despite the recent contradictory Trump Twitter-tantrum about the moon’s importance, Bridenstine explained why we need to go back. He also placated the President by repeating the idea that the Moon is a “stepping stone” to get to Mars. In addition to the Moon, Bridenstine also discussed Mars, NASA’s budget and the politics associated with it, and climate change.

Watch the interview here.

Why The Moon Is So Important

We’ve covered the Moon’s importance before, but Bridenstine’s interview provided additional insight that’s worth talking about. First, the NASA Administrator outlined the Artemis mission to land Americans on the Moon again by 2024. Then, to build a “sustainable presence” there by 2028. We’ll get into the timeline later, but the idea of a sustainable presence is important. According to Bridenstine, we need to have access to every part of the Moon, so that we can study the whole thing. The Apollo missions only studied the equatorial regions of the moon, so that’s what we thought the entire body was like. It turns out, there’s a lot of stuff on the moon that we can use around the polar regions, so that’s why we want to go back.  

A Sustainable Presence

With hydrogen and oxygen in the form of polar ice caps, and other abundant minerals and resources, the Moon makes a perfect proving ground for Mars.  Bridenstine pointed out that our proximity to the Moon, along with those resources, make it a prime testing ground. The idea is to use as many of the resources on the Moon as possible to build the base there. We’ll do so in much the same way on Mars. The distance is a big part of that. It only takes three days to get to the Moon. Mars, on the other hand, is a long haul. It’s only on the same side of the sun as we are every 26 months, so the margin for error is much smaller. By perfecting our techniques and systems on the Moon, we can ensure a safer voyage to the Red Planet.

Budgets, Politics, and the 2024 Timeline

In April, Vice President Mike Pence announced that he was cutting NASA’s timeline for the Artemis mission by four years. Of course doing a thing like that, especially as abrupt as the announcement was, would make any administrator feel some fire, but Bridenstine defended the VP’s decision in the interview.

In response to the question Ball asked about why we haven’t been back to the moon in decades, Bridenstine said simply, “Politics.” And he’s right. Administrations change, and budgets fail and projects get canceled. That’s been the history of each NASA lunar initiative since 1972. Bridenstine also said, in so many words, that was the motivation behind the Trump administration’s decision to speed up the timeline. 2024 corresponds with what the VP hopes will be a second Trump term. Bridenstine defended that by saying that the only way to get the politics out of it was to speed things up so that they’re done before administrations change.

When asked about budget concerns, Bridenstine defended his organization. He touted that they “advance the human condition.” Most of his examples focused on communications technology. Bridenstine said nothing about the ratio of NASA spending to defense spending, however.

Bridenstine also mentioned that it was personally important to him and the Vice President that we see the first woman on the moon by 2024, and that that woman be an American. 

Climate Change

Since taking the job as NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine has reversed his position on climate change. The former Oklahoma Congressman (R) used to be a climate change denier while he was in congress. In the interview, he said that the science that backs up the reality of climate change is “undeniable.”  He also said “unabashedly” that humans play a major part in it. Bridenstine did all of this, however, while explaining that there are many variables when it comes to climate change. 

Wrapping Up

Bridenstine did an artful job of placating his often childish boss. He emphasized that the Moon was just a stepping stone on the way to Mars twice. Then, he got back to work. He explained why going back to the moon was so important with grace and eloquence. When talking about the Artemis mission, he made an impassioned case for creating opportunities for women in space. As for climate change, he spoke about it like someone who actually understands science now. That is definitely a step in the right direction. On the whole, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was poised, articulate, and convincing. 


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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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