Washington, May 18 (EFE).- The astronauts that will travel to the Moon in 2025 on the Artemis II mission on Thursday on the steps of the US Capitol called on the government not to reduce the budget for NASA.
These weeks are critical because Republicans and Democrats have not come to an agreement on raising the debt ceiling, and the four astronauts – three Americans and one Canadian – who will fly on the Artemis II mission visited the building where the short- and possibly long-term economic future of the country are at stake.
“What has happened is as we show up to places, folks are cheering us on and telling us how they’re going to support us and they’re going to make sure that we can keep doing the things that we’re doing,” Vincent Glover, who will pilot the mission, said at a press conference, adding that he and his fellow astronauts were aware of the context of the debt ceiling debate and they had come to the Capitol to talk about the benefits of the Artemis program and to express their gratitude for lawmakers’ leadership and vision to date.
To prevent the US government from suspending its payments for bills it has already incurred, Congress before June 1 must approve a new hike in the debt limit, agreement on which GOP lawmakers are conditioning to reducing spending in a number of areas, including funds for the space agency.
The four Artemis II astronauts met with congresspeople and senators to emphasize the importance of investing in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the US government agency that is responsible for the civilian space program and aeronautical and aerospace research.
“(The lawmakers) want to support us, they want to continue to support us, and they know how important the decisions and the debates that are happening right now are to the future, of sustainability, of that vision and execution of that mission,” added Glover, who will be the first African American to set foot on the Moon.
The 10-day Artemis II mission to fly the astronaut team around the Moon will be commanded by Reid Wiseman, with Glover serving as mission pilot, while mission specialists will be Christina Hammock Koch, slated to be the first women to set foot on the lunar surface, and Jeremy Hansen, an astronaut with the Canadian space agency.
The four spacefarers will take part in the first crewed NASA mission to establish a long-term presence on the Moon, Artemis II being the first mission to Earth’s satellite in 50 years since the end of the 1968-1972 Apollo program, which put 12 US astronauts on the lunar surface.
The astronauts on Thursday were accompanied by NASA Director Bill Nelson, a former Democratic senator from Florida who also traveled into space, who said: “Rs and Ds that sometimes are at loggerheads all come together. The space program is a unifying force. It’s also a job-producing force. That’s another reason that we are hopeful that this resolution of what’s going to happen on the debt ceiling is going to be resolved.”
He also said that any reduction in spending, “the kind of cuts that you have seen talked about would be devastating to NASA” and to other space programs.
Also participating in the press conference was former astronaut and current Democratic Senator from Arizona Mark Kelly, who insisted that work must be done to broadcast the message and talk about why the NASA programs are important.
NASA’s success, in large part, is attributable to the vision and leadership of NASA administrators over the past three US administrations and also on broad and bipartisan support for the US space program in Congress, he said.
NASA’s first crewed Artemis mission to land on the Moon is scheduled to lift off in 2025.
Until them, Hansen said on Thursday, the astronauts will work on learning about their spacecraft and the various ground-based teams who are participating in the mission.
“Leadership here in the United States understands how amazing it is that they have a NASA that is doing amazing things in this country,” Hansen said. “The rest of the world looking in respects NASA, NASA is a leader. You have something extraordinary in your country, and I hope you treasure it and you’re extremely proud of it.”
Although the 10-day Moon mission will be extraordinary, and looking back at the Earth from the Moon will be a moving experience, the time between now and the launch will also be productive because difficult challenges will be resolved by the astronauts and the entire NASA team, Hansen said.