CNN Business’ Rachel Crane sat down with Nelson last week to touch on all those topics and more. Below is a transcript of that conversation, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
CNN Business: It seems unrealistic, that the 2024 deadline for Artemis, NASA’s moon landing program, is going to be met. How optimistic are you?
I’m soberly realistic. The goal is 2024, but space is hard. And we know when you are pushing the edge of the envelope, often there are delays. There’s a number one factor and that’s safety, and it’s involving humans. There might be a delay, but the goal is late 2024.
Oversight officials recently put the cost of Artemis at $86 billion through 2025. Is that a fair estimate? How much do you think the all-in cost of Artemis will be?
Remember it’s another three years away. The selection of astronauts is going very carefully, but remember it’s not just going to be one landing. There are going to be a number of landings over a 10-year period. And so there’s gonna be lots of opportunities.
Interestingly, the first astronauts class where there was considerable diversity of women as well as minorities was the class of 1978. It was the first space shuttle astronaut class, and we have seen the astronaut corps be very diverse ever since.
As for the selection announcement, it won’t be that soon, but it will happen. So stay tuned.
That’s not for me to say. We are in the blackout period that we do not comment on it until the General Accounting Office makes their decision. We expect that around the first of August, and then we’ll know.
Were you surprised they contested the outcome?
No, usually, these big contracts like this are contested. Whether it’s military launch contracts or NASA contracts.
But if the GAO rules in favor of those who are protesting the contract, It would potentially really delay the Artemis lunar landing because you would start the contracting process over.