The four astronauts selected to travel around the moon on the Artemis II mission visited Capitol Hill to encourage support for the program.
Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona, a former astronaut, hosted the crew. They were also joined by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Canadian Space Agency President Lisa Campbell.
NASA is asking for more than $27 billion in the next federal budget, including $8 billion for the Artemis Program.
"Sometimes I think NASA is the Dolly Parton of government agencies. It's like everybody loves Dolly Parton. But we have to work to get the message out and talk about why these programs are important," Kelly said.
The Artemis II crew visit follows Administrator Nelson's testimony Tuesday before a Senate committee, urging approval for NASA's budget request.
"The space program is a unifying force. It's also a job-producing force. And that's another reason that we are hopeful that this resolution, of what's going to happen on the debt ceiling is going to be resolved," Nelson said. "And then as we get to October the first for the new fiscal year that there will be an appropriations bill because the kind of cuts that you have seen talked about would be devastating.”
Artemis I, with no astronauts, successfully blasted off in November, traveling around the moon. Artemis II will send the crew of astronauts to fly around the moon.
"We might just be four people but we represent teams of 10s of 1000s, maybe even 100,000 people who are working on this Artemis mission," said Artemis II Mission Specialist Christina Koch.
The Artemis program seeks to have a sustained presence on the moon and eventually send astronauts to Mars.
"It is from decisions, challenging compromises made a decade or more ago that allow us to be approve of this mission. But we're also aware that Artemis II is just one step," said Artemis II Pilot Victor Glover.
Administrator Nelson has also said a goal of NASA is to get to the South Pole of the moon before China. He says the next Artemis mission will be an international one. One of the four astronauts, Mission Specialist Jeremy Hansen, is from Canada.
"You're inspiring nations around the world to join and equally I hope Canadians are proud," Hansen said.
Sen. Kelly says the goal to launch Artemis II in 2024.