NASA Administrator Bill Nelson wants the Senate to boost NASA's funds as the space agency seeks to finance a second contractor for an existing lunar lander project, Space News reported Tuesday.
Nelson told the Senate Appropriations Committee that NASA needs more funds to promote competition in the Human Landing System (HLS) program, which seeks to produce a lunar lander and is currently awarded to SpaceX, the lowest bidder.
The fiscal year 2021 appropriations bill provided HLS $850 million, which is only one-fourth of NASA's request. Of this amount, $400 million was needed to finance work assigned to SpaceX, Blue Origin and Dynetics.
Nelson, who became NASA administrator in May, suggested boosting funds through a jobs bill to allow for competition in the HLS program.
“The jobs bill is a way that you could fund NASA’s needs, not only for infrastructure but also for this additional money to try to give us the competitive proposition so that we can downselect two landers, at least,” he said.
Nelson stressed the HLS program's importance as a means to compete with China's growing space program. HLS's resulting lander would support NASA's Artemis program, which seeks to revive manned space exploration.