NASA teases three distinctly different lunar lander designs for Artemis moon mission

Rodiano Bonacci
Mag 3, 2020

Bridenstine and other officials believe that the skills and techniques NASA learns to make this happen will help the space agency pull off the next giant leap, a crewed mission to Mars, in the 2030s.

Bezos' Blue Origin company and Musk's SpaceX have been selected, along with Alabama-based Dynetics, to develop spacecraft that can land people on the moon, the BBC reports. In any case, both companies will now be tasked with aiding NASA and delivering humans to the Moon for the first time in decades.

The contracts total $967 million to be split among the three companies, however, NASA did not disclose the exact amount each company would get.

Unlike the Apollo program that put astronauts on the moon almost 50 years ago, NASA is gearing up for a long-term presence on Earth's satellite that the agency says will eventually enable humans to reach Mars, leaning heavily on private companies built around shared visions for space exploration.

The winning lander concepts take different approaches to the challenge of setting humans down on the lunar surface.

Artemis is working to land astronauts - including the first-ever female moonwalker - near the lunar south pole in 2024.

Blue Origin, led by Amazon founder and world's richest man Jeff Bezos, will develop a three-stage lander vehicle for the mission. DHLS would launch onboard a ULA Vulcan rocket. SpaceX will use its Starship system featuring an integrated landing module, while Dynetics' Human Landing System is created to launch on the ULA Vulcan launch system. A prototype of the craft has been tested at the company's Boca Chica site in southern Texas. It too will launch on ULA's launch system.

NASA is turning to private industry for the first lunar landers for astronauts in a half-century, with three competing, quite contrasting versions.

However, it was reported last month that Gateway had been removed from the "critical path" for 2024's mission. It's not likely to be used by the Artemis-3 mission in four years, but will be important for later stages in the programme: "We absolutely need a Gateway", he said.

These awards will cover the next 10 months as each team works with Nasa to determine how their proposed solution would work in practice. The objective of Artemis is to not only return humans to the lunar surface, but help NASA establish a permanent deep space presence for human exploration, including to Mars and potentially beyond. Apollo 13 did not touch down after an oxygen tank exploded.

The last American astronaut to walk on the moon was Apollo 17's Eugene Cernan, who left the last human boot print there on December 14, 1972, two-and-a-half years after Neil Armstrong's famous "first step".

Artemis also aims to establish a long-term human presence on and around the moon by 2028.

In June last year, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told CNN that NASA needs an estimated $20 to $30 billion on top of last year's budget of $21.5 billion over the next five years if Artemis is to succeed.

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