Documents reveal NASA’s moon mission will require 37 launches and plans to build a moon base by 2028

Leaked documents reveal NASA’s Artemis mission will require 37 LAUNCHES as it prepares to put humans back on the surface in just five years and establish a lunar base by 2028

  • Leaked documents show the breadth and ambition of NASA’s Artemis project
  • Ars Technica reports the plan will entail 37 launches and a moon base by 2028 
  • Cost will be the mission’s major impediment, involving $6 to $8 billion per year
  • A moon base could make future launches easier and expand industry

NASA’s next trip to the moon will entail 37 separate launches over a decade and culminate in the construction of a moon base by 2028, according to leaked documents that detail the agency’s ‘Artemis’ plan.

Information on the nascent mission come from documents obtained by Ars Technica, and, for the first time, show a detailed glimpse of America’s first human-led mission to the moon since 1972.

In a graphic, NASA breaks down a year-by-year guide of the construction of the ‘Gateway’ a space station and waypoint on the way to the moon, human test flights, and a lunar landing slated for 2024.


Leaked NASA documents like the one pictured above show an ambitious plan to return humans to the moon and eventually develop a long-term base there according to Ars Technica


Russia and the United States are cooperating on a NASA-led project to build the first lunar space station, codenamed the Lunar Gateway.

The agreement, signed in September 2017, is part of a long-term project to send humans to Mars.

The crew-tended spaceport will orbit the moon and serve as a ‘gateway to deep space and the lunar surface,’ NASA has said.

The first modules of the station could be completed as soon as 2024.

An international base for lunar exploration for humans and robots and a stopover for spacecraft is a leading contender to succeed the $100 billion International Space Station (ISS), the world’s largest space project to date.

In the final stages of NASA’s timeline, the graphic suggest the deployment of a ‘lunar surface asset’ which Ars Technica suggests may be the initial stages of an outpost on the moon where future crews will be able to stay for longer-term missions. 

As noted by Ars Technica, the documents do not show the cost of such missions which, given the revealed scope and complexity, may be astronomical. 

NASA has already asked for an additional $1.6 billion in funding per year and according to an unnamed source cited by Ars Technica, Artemis will cost about $6 to $8 billion per year on top of the agency’s $20 billion budget.

Funding for the project has already been a major political issue in the U.S. where the administration of President Donald Trump has proposed diverting the $1.6 billion needed to kickstart the mission from a reserve fund for federal Pell Grants.

Pell Grants are a federal subsidy given to students in need of funding for college and according to data from College Board, 22.2 million students received money from the program between 2017 and 2018.

The U.S. won’t be alone in its push to develop a permanent base on the moon. 

Aiding the ambitious project will be an announcement from China this April that revealed plans to build a lunar base near the moon’s south pole.

The beginning parts of the base could reach the moon’s surface as soon as 2020 according to a report from 

NASA just announced the 11 companies who will be designing and studying prototypes of the various equipment and vehicles used in its mission this month — among them are Boeing, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman and more.

Aerospace company Blue Origin, backed by billionaire Jeff Bezos, will be among the companies looking to contribute to NASA's next moon mission

Aerospace company Blue Origin, backed by billionaire Jeff Bezos, will be among the companies looking to contribute to NASA’s next moon mission

The U.S. won't be the only company vying to build a long-term base on the moon. This April, China also said it is eyeing a moon hub

The U.S. won’t be the only company vying to build a long-term base on the moon. This April, China also said it is eyeing a moon hub

While the moon might not make a suitable environment for mass human colonization, the prospect of developing a base has tantalized space agencies around the world for several reasons. 

Among the potential benefits, say proponents, are access to resources like iron or uranium that may lie beneath the moon’s surface, and the potential benefit to future launches into space — theoretically it could be much easier and less expensive to launch spacecraft from the moon. 

By settling on the moon, even in relatively small numbers, humans would also gain unprecedented insight into human colonization of the solar system, the prospect of which has been considered with increasing seriousness as climate change and ever-expanding human populations cast a shadow over Earth’s future. 


In a statement in March, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine doubled down on plans to send humans first to the moon and then to Mars and said NASA is on track to have humans back on the moon by 2028.

The plan relies on the developing Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, along with the Gateway orbital platform.

SLS and Orion are expected to be ready for their first uncrewed test flight in 2020.

Construction on Gateway – an orbiting lunar outpost – is expected to begin as soon as 2022.

‘We will go to the Moon in the next decade with innovative, new technologies and systems to explore more locations across the lunar surface than ever before,’ Bridenstine said.

‘This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay.

‘We will use what we learn as we move forward to the Moon to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.’

Vice President Mike Pence, however, tore up these plans and statements when he unexpectedly revealed a new deadline in March stating intentions to put humans on the moon by 2024 – four years earlier. 

The VP called on NASA to ‘reignite the spark of urgency’ for space exploration and make it a priority to set ‘bold goals’ and stay on schedule.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine added a week later, at the start of April, that the agency would get ‘really close’ to delivering a plan by April 15. 

This has been missed by several weeks and the House Science Committee is now vocalising its displeasure at having no viable plan or programme from the space agency.