NASA selects SpaceX to create the upcoming lunar lander

Artists concept of the lander of SpaceX on the surface of the moon.

Artists concept of SpaceX’s lander on the moon’s surface.
Fig: SpaceX

SpaceX has won a lucrative NASA contract to build the first lunar lander since the Apollo program. The announcement came as a big surprise as the Elon Musk-led company defeated one of its promising competitors, including Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin.

Sorry Blue source and dynamics, But SpaceX will have the opportunity to place its logo on the next lunar lander, as NASA announced at a news conference today. The move highlights NASA’s growing confidence in its commercial partner, as the space agency prepares to return astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told me via Twitter, “This is NASA’s preferred adventure and risk.”

The chances that the starship won’t actually work are “significantly higher than the more conventional alternatives,” he wrote.

McDowell is right – it was No. Safe choice. By deciding that the vertical landing rocket, unlike the lunar lander of the 1960s, is something that has never been tried before, it is clear that NASA is looking to the future and ongoing innovations in the region.

It was already known that the space agency was looking to the private sector to design and build the Human Landing System (HLS). NASA has paid 96 67,967 million to three agencies to bring in landers for the upcoming Artemis Moon mission. NASA, however, did not allocate these funds evenly, giving অ 579 million to Blue Origin, 24 243 million to Alabama-based Dynamics, and apparently 5 135 million to SpaceX.

The Blue Origin bid seemed like the top candidate. In addition to receiving the lion’s share of NASA funding, Blue Origin partnered with three major organizations to make it happen: Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Dragger. Blue Source, led by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has even delivered a delivery Full scale makeup The solution, known as the Integrated Lander Vehicle, was launched at NASA in August last year. NASA’s decision to go with SpaceX will probably come as a shock to Bezos, who says he was Fascinated Ever since he saw Apollo landing as a child by the moon.

SpaceX will use its upcoming Starship platform for lunar landings. The car has a huge cabin and two planes for the astronaut Moonwalk. Importantly, it is reusable. The new award-winning deal is worth ২ 2.99 billion and under the terms of this milestone-based deal, SpaceX will have to demonstrate an unaltered lunar landing test flight, as Mark Kirasic, deputy associate administrator at NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division, explained during a press conference. Conference

Kathy Lloyders, associate administrator at NASA’s Director of Human Exploration and Operations, did not elaborate on why SpaceX was chosen over other bids, saying the decision was “part of an overall, larger strategy” to go to the moon sustainably. Way SpaceX was the best option “at the moment” and NASA will now begin negotiations with other commercial partners for flow-up competition. “It’s the first step,” Lloyds said.

Acting NASA Administrator Steve Zurzic further said that the competitors were selected on the basis of criteria with technical cost, feasibility and management method. SpaceX was chosen for the demonstration for the initial landing, with NASA officials making it clear that other commercial partners would be involved as the project progressed, adding that sustainability was the key to moving forward. Could play a more important role.

At today’s press conference, Lisa Watson-Morgan, program manager at HLS, said NASA’s upcoming space launch system remains a critical component of Artemis. The giant rocket will deliver the Orion capsule and its crew to a predetermined presented location in lunar orbit. Ideally, this point would be NASA’s Lunar Gateway, a permanent lunar outpost that still needs to be built. There the crew will exit Orion and enter SpaceX HLS. The crew will then land on the moon, perform their duties, return to the starship and return to the outpost.

As for SpaceX, it will launch a starship from Earth, re-ignite the vehicle in low-Earth orbit, deliver HLS to the point of presentation, and wait for Artemis Kruti. Surprisingly, SpaceX was not involved in today’s press conference.

Starship prototypes are currently being tested at the Boca Chika test facility at SpaceX in Texas. These tests seem to be going relatively well, especially in the direction of the launch, but the company can land the rocket without exploding into a huge ball of fire. Elon Musk Hopefully The next-generation Starship prototypes will start with the upgraded SN15 (currently on the Booka Chika launch pad) to perform better than previous versions.

The new deal is “a big win for SpaceX” and “shows the confidence that NASA has gained in the company while working with them on the Falcon 9 pedaled launch and then Crew Dragon,” McDowell said.

Kirsch said that 2024 is still the goal for crew landing on the moon, given the importance of the lunar gateway in mission architecture, however, this goal is increasingly la la us.

Under the Trump administration, NASA was told to return astronauts to the moon by 2024, but President Biden Not committed yet Despite this ambitious date (his team is currently working on a new timeline) Committed The Artemis program itself. Excitingly, the Biden administration is also committed to sending oneMan and man on the moon, and the first person of color.

More: Artemis astronauts will do some serious science on the moon

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