(Originally aired: Dec. 4, 2022)
NASA’s Orion rocket is nearing the end of its historic unmanned mission to the moon, the first step toward returning man to the lunar satellite, and then venturing where no man has gone before. Lisa Fletcher has more on the Artemis mission and taxpayer costs.
The following is a transcript of a report from "Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson." Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.
For four and a half billion years, it’s been there, silently circling our planet. Now, it could become our stepping stone to the universe.
When Artemis 1 lifted off last month from the coast of Florida, it represented the start of a new era for NASA and human space exploration. One that continues a journey begun in 1969.
Bill Nelson: We're going back to the moon. This time we're going to stay, and then we're going to Mars.
Bill Nelson is the administrator of NASA. A former Florida senator, he’s also one of only two members of Congress to ever go into space.
Lisa: Why go back to the moon first?
Bill Nelson: That gives us the opportunity to learn how to live and work in that very hostile environment.
This first mission is designed to test everything without risking human astronauts.
Bill Nelson: We would never put humans on this one because we are pushing it to the limit.
Getting to back to the moon has required a new rocket with even more power than the Saturn V that lifted the Apollo missions. Full Measure got an inside look at it earlier this summer as it was being prepared.
Jeremy Parsons: Think about something the size of the Statue of Liberty, and we're going to get it going 25,000 miles per hour.
Jeremy Parsons is deputy program manager for ground exploration systems.
Jeremy Parsons: When we start talking about going to the moon, we're talking 230,000 miles, three days away. And we haven't done that for a very long time — since the final Apollo mission. And so there's a lot of things that we have to necessarily re-learn, like the heat shield, right?
That heat shield gets its big test when the spacecraft returns to earth. A crucial moment for a program that’s already burned through $40 billion and is on track to spend much more.
Lisa: When you're talking about building machinery like this, to the limits of science, the costs are extraordinary. The inspector general for NASA recently said that the $4 billion-per-launch price tag is unsustainable.
Bill Nelson: Well, that's the development cost all piled into that. I mean, it takes a lot of money to build a new rocket. But when you start amortizing that cost over one per year, over an entire decade, then you start to get your costs down.
Some call Artemis the new Apollo, with its bigger rocket and budget, but today’s goals far exceed what was done 50 years ago. And this time, if it works, the moon won’t be the finish. It’ll be where mankind starts its next giant leap.
For Full Measure, I'm Lisa Fletcher in Florida.
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