NASA’s Moon to Mars effort requires growing list of partners

NASA’s future will be built atop alliances with other federal agencies, the wider scientific community, and international partnerships that harness brainpower and emerging technologies. That alliance will probe the mysteries of the universe and overcome challenges to planned missions on the Moon and Mars, a panel of top NASA leaders told a crowd at the 39th Space Symposium.

NASA Associate Administrator Jim Free, the third highest-ranking official at the agency, said the agency’s focus on the Artemis missions has led to a shared effort across the agency. The Artemis effort also have provided  a deep roster with companies and countries, which help propel future efforts.

“So how do we make sure the partnerships we have align with what we want to do?” Free asked a panel of NASA’s leaders.

NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development Catherine Koerner said having clear goals set for crewed missions in the solar system ensures the massive effort involving scores of partnerships stays on track.

“Having that architecture, which is a whole-of-agency approach to how we are doing exploration, helps us align our discussion with our partners … industry, academia and international partners on what we are trying to accomplish,” she said.

Koerner said unlike the U.S. Apollo effort, which was driven by Cold War rivalries, Artemis represents Earth’s civilization reaching toward the stars.

“It cannot just be a NASA thing,” she said. “It cannot just be a United States thing.”

The list of partners is only growing as NASA gets closer to its planned Artemis II lunar fly-by in 2025, and the landing of astronauts on the Moon in 2026 with Artemis III.

Kurt Vogel, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said the Artemis missions require the agency to assess it successes and identify “shortfalls,” or priorities that must be addressed before launch.

“One of the ways we mechanize how to set our priorities is by engaging with our broader stakeholder group,” he said.

The agency in the years ahead will only grow the number of partners, and that will require a focus on making those relationships flourish, the leaders said.

“We’re always looking at how we can collaborate better with our many different partners and stake holders,” said Nicola Fox, associate administrator overseeing NASA’s science mission directorate.