President Donald Trump has asked NASA to send a group of humans on an untested rocket around the moon, and NASA is currently working on its prospects. William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of the agency's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate said: "We have a good, crisp list of all the things we would physically have to change on the launch vehicle under development,".
The US space agency is conducting a study for the White House to see if two astronauts can fly on the debut launch of a next-generation rocket, on a nine-day trip around the moon in 2018. Although planning for the mission has been going on for a while, sending humans onboard the rocket was not part of the plan until 2021.
However, the new Trump administration has requested the agency to speed up the process and see the possibilities of sending humans to the moon on the debut flight. The US astronauts have for so long relied on Russian spacecraft for access to the International Space Station. Last time when NASA sent people beyond low-Earth orbit was 40 years ago on its final moon mission.
Some of the issues are there with this mission. Despite a direct request from the White House, a NASA safety oversight panel has warned that the agency should have convincing reasons for adding team to justify the extra cost as well as risk to human life.
Patricia Sanders, head of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel told Reuters: "If the benefits warrant assumption of additional risk, we expect NASA to clearly and openly articulate their decision-processing rationale”.
Gerstenmaier thinks there has to be a good enough reason to take this risk as the initial results of the review should be ready in about a month.
He said: "From my perspective, there's no pressure to go do this. This is something we're going to evaluate..... What do we really gain by putting crew on this flight?"
Trump, who has not chosen a NASA administrator yet, has shown support for more aspiring space programs by the US. As he mentioned in his inaugural speech that "the US is ready to unlock the mysteries of space."