Members of Congress from Texas are taking NASA to task over its reported plans to locate the majority of the work for the new moon program in Huntsville, Ala., instead of Houston, where the Apollo program of the 1960s and 1970s was anchored.
Texas Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, along with Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), are urging NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to reconsider where to develop the lunar lander for Project Artemis, the Trump administration's plan to send astronauts to the moon by 2024, according to a letter sent Thursday and first obtained by POLITICO.
Bridenstine is expected to announce Friday that two of the three lander elements will be built at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, which specializes in rocket and propulsion research and is home to the Army's Space and Missile Defense Command — and not Johnson Space Center in Houston, which is also home to the astronaut corps and mission control for the International Space Station.
Johnson Space Center is expected to work only on the ascent element to return astronauts to the so-called Gateway — a space station envisioned to orbit the moon — a fact the lawmakers called “very troubling."
“The integration of development responsibilities into one center — ideally the center with the longest history and deepest institutional knowledge of human space exploration — would be the most cost-efficient, streamlined, and effective approach, and is the approach that NASA should pursue,” the lawmakers write.
Cruz chairs the Senate Commerce Aviation and Space Subcommittee, which oversees NASA, and Babin is the top Republican on the House Science Space Subcommittee.
NASA has asked space companies to design a lander to deliver humans to the lunar surface from the Gateway.