Nasa chose Elon Musk’s company SpaceX to build a lander that would bring humans back to the moon in the last decade.
This vehicle will carry the next man and the first woman to the moon under the Space Agency’s Artemis program.
Another goal of the program is to land the first color person on the moon.
The lander is based on SpaceX’s Starship Craft, which is being tested at a site in southern Texas.
SpaceX was competing with a joint bid from traditional aerospace giant Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, and Alabama-based Dynetics. The total amount of contracts awarded to Musk companies is $ 2.89 billion.
“With this award, Nasa and her partners will complete a demonstration mission by the first crew on the Moon in the 21st century. The agency will take a step forward for women’s equality and long-term deep space exploration. “Kathy Lueders said. Responsible for human exploration of the organization.
“This important step guides humanity on the path to sustainable lunar exploration and keeps our eyes on a farther mission to the solar system, including Mars.”
The Artemis program, launched under the Trump administration, aimed to return to the lunar eclipse in 2024. However, due to lack of funding for the landing system, that goal could not be achieved.
Elon Musk has been developing starship designs for years. Similar to a rocket ship from the golden age of science fiction, it is an important element of an entrepreneur’s long-term plan to settle humans on Mars.
However, for now, it acts as a lander that carries astronauts from lunar orbit to the ground.
With a spacious cabin and two airlocks, astronauts can leave the lunar module for the moonwalk. It is far from the cramped and prickly lunar module (LM) that brought 12 men to the surface of the water under the Apollo program in the United States between 1969 and 1972.
The new vehicle is known as the Human Landing System (HLS).
Recently, Nasa has selected multiple companies when procuring space transportation services, offering options if one of them is not available.
However, Nasa has received only $ 850 million of the $ 3.3 billion requested by Congress to build a lunar module. In a statement, Lueders said, “Government agencies’ desire to maintain a competitive environment at this stage of the HLS program remains, but the current budget did not allow them to choose between the two, as expected.” Said.
Cost is believed to be the main factor. SpaceX bids were “significantly” the lowest of the three competitors.
“We have determined that making the first conditional choice for SpaceX is in the best interests of government agencies,” Lueders explained.
This decision caused a turmoil in Congress. Nasa is undergoing a peaceful transition after Joe Biden is elected president. It’s run by interim admins, and Biden chose to run an agency-former senator and astronaut Bill Nelson-will appear at his confirmation hearing next week.
Eddie Bernice Johnson, Democratic Chairman of the House Science and Technology Commission, said: ..
“The decision to win this award today is despite the apparent need to re-baseline Nasa’s lunar exploration program, which has no realistic possibility of returning US astronauts to the moon by 2024. Will also happen. “
Nasa has targeted the Antarctic region of the Moon, where astronauts first land since 1972. The area has abundant water and ice deposits that can be converted to rocket fuel and breathable air to support future lunar bases.
However, landing here also presents a challenge. This is because the sun’s angle casts long shadows and obscures surface features when the aircraft lands.
Engineers need to navigate the issue as they plan their first Artemis landing.
SpaceX played against Blue Origin (founded by Bezos), Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, a national team of Drapers, and defense industry contractor Dynetics.
This represents another milestone for the 19-year-old company founded by Musk to first have to overcome widespread skepticism about plans to reduce space flight costs. SpaceX has almost run out of moneyHowever, it was continued in 2008 by an accidental contract award from Nasa.
Since then, it has had great success in launching commercial satellites and has signed a favorable contract to fly people to the ISS.
Starship vehicles are currently being tested at a facility in Bocachica, southern Texas. Many unmanned spacecraft prototypes have already been launched at altitudes above 10 km before being unloaded for gentle landing on the ground. However, the last few test flights ended with an explosion near or on the pad after the vehicle returned.
“This is an exciting time for Nasa, especially the Artemis team,” said Lisawatson Morgan, program manager for the Human Landing System at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.
“In the Apollo program, we proved that it was possible to land humans in a seemingly impossible moon. Leveraging Nasa’s proven technical expertise and capabilities, the industry By working with us, we will bring American astronauts back to the moon. This time, we will resurface to explore new territories for a longer period of time. “
The Artemis program aims to establish a long-term presence on the moon, including the establishment of a lunar base.
Follow Paul On Twitter.