Whether it's the moon or Mars, NASA just wants to launch more missions.
That was the consensus Thursday at NASA's first congressional hearing of 2017. It's been more than five years since NASA launched astronauts into space aboard the shuttle, and the agency is chomping at the bit for its next manned mission.
While Orion has completed its first test flight, the SLS has yet to launch, and both systems have dealt with budget constraints and slipping deadlines.
But that isn't stopping the agency from pushing for more missions. According to The Washington Post, NASA is exploring the option of adding astronauts to the EM-1 mission — the first integrated flight of the SLS and Orion — scheduled for 2018. That's years before the current schedule for a deep space manned mission.
So what might hold NASA back? Aside from safety concerns or engineering capabilities, a big factor is funding. An audit by the Office of the Inspector General showed software needed for the SLS and Orion launches was more than a year behind schedule and way over budget.
If money is the big problem, it doesn't look like it'll be solved anytime soon. Congress has yet to approve NASA's next budget, but the agency has asked for $3.3 billion for human space exploration — which is less than it got in 2016.