The Trump administration wants to get humans back to the Moon — fast. In April of 2019, Vice President Mike Pence challenged NASA with putting people on the lunar surface by 2024, a deadline just five years away. NASA accepted and has since named this ambitious initiative Artemis — a nod to the Greek goddess and twin sister of Apollo, whose name was given to NASA’s first program to send humans to the Moon.
This time around, NASA wants things to be different. The goal of Artemis is to create a sustainable presence near the Moon, instead of just sending humans to plant flags and make footprints. The agency also aims to send the first woman to the Moon through the Artemis program.
The odds are stacked against NASA’s lofty goals. The agency has a whole lot of new hardware to build over the next five years, and it still doesn’t have a firm budget from Congress. If the agency doesn’t get that funding, the 2024 deadline could easily slip away. But even if the money does come through, NASA doesn’t have a great reputation for meeting deadlines, either. There’s no room for error, and it’s unclear if NASA has the ability to navigate the political and technical risks to pull this off.