NASA picks Alabama’s Dynetics for Moon lander prototype

Rodiano Bonacci
Mag 4, 2020

Not all of these projects are equal in terms of financial sustainability, so while a specific solution may be chosen for 2024, that doesn't necessarily mean it will be allowed to continue over the long haul, as NASA plans on multiple Artemis missions to various spots around the Moon. On Thursday, NASA announced the three companies that will develop, build and fly lunar landers, with the goal of returning astronauts to the moon by 2024.

Man last set foot on the moon in December 1972 when Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent three days on the lunar surface in NASA's final moon landing mission.

The companies vying for this contract included Blue Origin, with Jeff Bezos' company taking the lead for its collaborative industry-spanning team; Boeing, which is one of NASA's providers for its Commercial Crew program; SpaceX, which developed the other vehicle for Commercial Crew, and is targeting its first crewed flight for late May; and other smaller companies including Sierra Nevada Corportation, which has been developing a reusable space plane for use in various missions including space station resupply, and Dynetics, which was a surprise victor in the race.

SpaceX's design is the Starship, which will use the company's Super Heavy rocket for launch. SpaceX will also be providing several Starships tailored for different purposes: One will store propellant, another will act as a tanker, while another will transport humans between different locations.

NASA's announcement yesterday regarding the contracts for the lunar landers are the next step towards the 2024 mission.

The combined contract award of a cool near-billion dollars over the 10-month base period will be split between Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX.

Going forward, the contractors will "refine their lander concepts", and will have until February of next year to do that. Dynetics will receive $US253 ($388) million, and SpaceX will get $US135 ($207) million.

"These are three companies that we believe have a lot of capability that are going to enable us to get to the moon", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "This will be the next major milestone in the history of human space flight, and we're honored to be a part of it", said Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin, in a statement.

NASA hopes its next moonshot will be a beacon of hope in troubled times, just as the first one was. In December, Boeing's Starliner spacecraft, created to take Nasa astronauts to the International Space Station, had to abort a test flight.

NASA also plans to assemble a small space station called the Gateway in lunar orbit.

Illustration of Artemis astronauts on the Moon. This fast-track approach would evolve into the sustainable lunar programme of 2028 that it has been planning with global partners such as the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

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