Congress isn’t happy about SpaceX’s lunar lander and may vent this week

Enlarge / Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, chairs the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. (credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson will appear at a committee meeting of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on Wednesday, and the meeting could be full of intrigue when the subject of NASA’s Artemis Program to land humans on the Moon and SpaceX comes up.

We can probably expect some happy talk as Nelson—who as a US Senator in 2011 championed development of the Space Launch System rocket alongside Kay Bailey Hutchison—references the recent stacking of the booster’s core stage with its solid rocket motors at Kennedy Space Center. After a decade and more than $20 billion in costs, NASA’s large SLS rocket is indeed finally getting closer to its first test launch.

But the real intrigue will involve the Human Landing System needed as part of the Moon program to take astronauts down to the lunar surface and back up to orbit. In April, due in part to a lack of funding from Congress, NASA selected SpaceX and its Starship vehicle as a sole provider for this critical component of Artemis. The space agency awarded $2.89 billion to SpaceX for the lander.

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