“To prioritize Lunar Landing, things have to be reduced, which is also a priority,” Moran told POLITICO while sitting on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “We will try to provide all the necessary funds to keep Artemis on track for a lunar landing at the scheduled time, but it is and will remain a challenge.”
For example, he said, “I don’t think our subcommittee or appropriation committee is going to zero STEM education so that money can be spent elsewhere.”
The Trump administration announced in March 2019 that it plans to land the next man and first woman on the moon from 2024 onwards to 2024, with the timeline extending from 2028. Unlike previous Apollo missions, the US is preparing to establish a permanent lunar presence. With astronauts remaining in orbit around the moon for months at a time to help NASA prepare for a mission designed by NASA for the future of Mars.
Trump’s attempt to extend the landing for four years has led to the issue being described as more partisan. But Moran insists that his subcommittee has overcome this by focusing on the science being held on the moon.
“It has been suspected by some that this is a political effort related to an election cycle calendar,” he said. “I have no evidence that this is the case. … We have been able to follow science and policy, because we are not in politics – to return to the moon soon. “
Moran also talked about his panel’s plans to mark the Senate’s NASA appropriation bill, how he would hold final talks with the House, and how Apollo Moon Landings influenced his personal interests in space.
This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
What is the status of Senate’s fiscal 2021 appropriation bill for NASA?
It is bits and pieces of starting and stopping our efforts. The day we thought we were going to mark our bill, it escaped us. We are now waiting for a comprehensive agreement between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, so that we can get back to doing the appropriation work.
Our bill has certainly not been finalized, but we have thoughts that we expect when we arrive at this point… [of] Making our report for the full committee. Our efforts were bipartisan. [Subcommittee ranking member] Sen [Jeanne] Shaheen (DN.H.) and I work together and we will develop [commerce, justice, science and related agencies] Appropriation Bill that reflects shared priorities between Republicans and Democrats. We hope once again to be unanimous among the full committee and to consider the floor of the Senate.
Do you have a new date you are targeting for markup?
There is a consensus building that would suggest that the appropriation committee not report the bills to the full Senate until after the August holiday. … Hopefully in September we are fully engaged in the appropriation process.
What are your top priorities for NASA spending in FY 2021?
I am a collaborator of NASA’s desire to return a man and a woman to the moon. … I think accelerating the time frame in which it can and should happen … is useful in keeping NASA and its personal allies focused on an important mission. I appreciated NASA for developing the idea of returning to the moon. Our appropriation bills in the past have demonstrated that we not only state that we support that mission, but we have also demonstrated by providing resources to help fulfill that mission. I would expect in 2021 that our bill would once again reflect the goal of that aspiration.
We provide a fixed amount within our jurisdiction on which to spend the money. NASA is an important component of our jurisdiction, but even within NASA’s budget, trying to maintain spending for things that are important to the lunar landing effort is also important to me.
NASA’s proposed budget for FY 2021 … proposed budget cuts of approximately $ 1 billion in funding for ongoing programs. To prioritize lunar landings, things have to be reduced which is a priority. I understand and value importance, for example [science, technology, engineering and math] Education. Either it is a matter of policy or a matter of politics, I do not think our subcommittee or appropriation committee is going to zero STEM education so that the money can be spent elsewhere.
We still have to find the right balance within [the subcommittee’s] Jurisdiction, but even as NASA incurred. As a Kansan, I come from a state where aviation is extremely important. NASA has the first “A” aeronautics, and is an important component of NASA’s priority and focus. We are going to find ways to find the right balance, while we are still trying to pursue the purpose of going to the moon
Does your committee have support for the 2024 lunar landing bipartisan?
it’s usually. Doubts have been expressed by some that this is a political effort related to an election cycle calendar. I have no evidence that this is the case. But I just think that lends a little too much political skepticism, but we’ve been able to overcome that because we’ve followed science and policy – not politics – of the moon’s early return. Within our committee, Artemis has enjoyed bipartisan support.
How will you reconcile with the House bill that cuts funds for the moon mission?
We will try to provide all the necessary funds to keep Artemis on track for the lunar landing in due time, but it is and will remain a challenge. … How do you want to spend a limited amount of money from the Department of Commerce from the census to NOAA to the National Weather Service? Our jurisdiction has all the things that matter, but we will try to find that right balance.
We will certainly work with the House to negotiate the conference … to advance Artemis’s goal by finding bipartisan and bicameral solutions to those levels of spending. … Everyone may have a slightly different view of priority. Our job is to find something that is acceptable to 60 senators and 218 house members and can be signed by the President.
Any other areas you expect to be separated from the House bill?
I have not yet negotiated with my counterparts in the House so that they can realize … the thought process behind their preference for spending. I think it remains to be seen how we work. When we work our bill, we will try to fulfill that resolution. We are not doing anything to get out of our way, to do it differently… or to get our attention. We will try to get to a point where there is some understanding and direction that we can move towards an easier resolution rather than fight instead of going to the conference.
Do you have a personal interest in the space that led you in search of the chair of this subcommittee?
I am definitely of an age in which Apollo Landing caught my attention as a child. I have a goal for my own state, but it is also true for the country, that we respect and respect the things that encourage young people to pursue careers in science, mathematics, engineering and research. I want to reward Kansas and the nation for those who have the ability to inspire people. This is important for the future of our nation.
This is important for our national defense and the economy of our country. In part the future of the United States is determined by the amount of effort and resources invested in science, research, technology, and engineering. So my personal interest is that it is really important to our country and its future that the inspiration coming from space will develop another generation of scientists and engineers.