NASA wants another lunar lander for the Artemis mission

As part of the Artemis program, NASA is asking for a second private lander to send astronauts to the moon. On the other hand, SpaceX still has to be responsible for bringing the first astronauts to the ground since the end of the Apollo era.

In April 2021, NASA selected SpaceX to build the first human lander for the Artemis program, which calls for a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by the end of the century. NASA initially intended to select several private contractors, but Congress did not allocate enough money to support this redundancy. The decision subsequently sparked protests from Dynetics and Blue Origin, which were vying for the same contract.

Finally, Elon Musk’s company will face a lot of competition. NASA announced on Wednesday, Plans to support development of second private lunar lander. ” We anticipate that both companies will safely transport astronauts to the lunar surface under the direction of NASA,” Lisa Watson-Morgan, program director for the agency’s Human Landing System“This strategy accelerates progress towards a long-term sustainable lander capability as early as 2026 or 2027.”

This decision is not surprising. Last October, the Senate Appropriations Committee did order NASA to select a second company to develop a manned lunar lander. However, the budget increase associated with this request was small at the time. finally, The agency apparently has enough money to support this second lander.

The exact funding amount and other details will be released next week when the White House releases its 2023 federal budget request.

Illustration of a SpaceX Starship landing on the lunar surface.Credit: NASA

spaceship capable of docking at the moon station

For the new lander, NASA plans to issue a draft request for proposal (RFP) at the end of this month.If all goes according to plan, the agency A choice will be made in early 2023In addition to being able to put humans on the moon (and get them off the ground), the craft must also be able to dock with a small space station gateway in lunar orbit that NASA plans to build in the next few years. …

Of course, this newly announced competition will be open to all U.S. companies, with the exception of SpaceX. However, the company has the option to negotiate the terms of its existing contracts to perform additional lunar development work. Additionally, there are still rumors that SpaceX could land astronauts on the Artemis 3 mission with its Starship in 2025 or 2026. This will be the first manned moon landing since Apollo 17 in 1972. SpaceX is also planning for 2024.

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