Full Moon by Gregory H. Revera / CC BY-SA 3.0

Can NASA really return people to the Moon by 2024?

Jul 9, 2019

By Alexandra Witze

Five decades after sending humans to the Moon, NASA is tasked with repeating the feat — and doing it by 2024, the ambitious deadline set by US President Donald Trump’s team. But it is unclear how the space agency will surmount some formidable technical, political and financial challenges to pull off a lunar landing in just four and a half years.

“If the pieces come together in the right way they can pull it off,” says Ryan Watkins, a lunar scientist with the Planetary Science Institute who is based in St Louis, Missouri. “But they have to come together.”

NASA’s leaders have yet to make key decisions about how the Moon effort, called Artemis after Apollo’s twin sister, will proceed. The agency does not have a rocket ready to fly humans into deep space, and it has not developed a lunar lander since the Apollo programme ended in 1972. Then there is Congress, which controls NASA’s budget and seems increasingly uninterested in paying for the Moon mission.

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