Written by By Mercedes Schmeiser, CNN
NASA is aiming to take its first manned moon rocket — the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle — to orbit by February, with landing possible as early as July 2019.
The milestone announcement comes ahead of the next in a series of key congressional hearings tomorrow, which is expected to discuss America’s commitment to exploration.
Announcing the news in a short video, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine says that after five years of development the Crew Space Vehicle “is ready to launch on America’s next great mission to the moon.”
Future heavy-lift rocket will deliver astronauts to the Moon from U.S. soil. Credit:NASA/MSFC/Hulton Archive
The launch of the Crew Space Vehicle has been held up by technical issues. The next generation craft is scheduled to reach an altitude of 500 kilometers, or 327 miles, in August, which Bridenstine says is “going to be critical to us getting on the moon in FY20.”
The president’s FY19 budget request promised that the first Moon landings would be possible around this time next year, putting the payload launch “at the beginning of June.”
A Human Spacecraft Crew Enhancement Rocket and Crew Space Vehicle image by the current space shuttle. Credit: NASA
While the program is currently in flux, American leaders are still pushing ahead in its development, which NASA has touted as a future tool for future exploration, including deep space exploration.
In a video released by NASA, astronaut David Saint-Jacques, a Mission Specialist and trainer for the Orion spacecraft, touted the next step in the moon program, saying that “this mission is critical for us to get on a course to Mars.”
“It’s really important for us to have the next generation space ship that is going to be designed to work in the vacuum of space, but that is also going to be stable and reliable in the far more unstable environment of deep space,” he said.
At a press conference Tuesday, Bridenstine echoed Saint-Jacques’ statement, saying “I firmly believe with these initial flights we’re going to have a great crew and we’re going to be in a position to be launching Apollo-class systems on American soil.”