NASA [https://www.nasa.gov/] has chosen Musk?s SpaceX [https://www.spacex.com/],
Bezos?s Blue Origin [https://www.blueorigin.com/], and Dynetics
[https://www.dynetics.com/] to design and build three lunar landing systems that
can take humans to the surface of the Moon. The three companies will work on
their designs over the next year, and eventually, NASA will select one lander to
take the first woman and the next man to the lunar surface.
These landers are a critical part of NASA?s Artemis program
[https://www.nasa.gov/specials/artemis/], the agency?s initiative to send humans
back to the Moon by 2024. For the last decade, NASA has been developing a giant
deep-space rocket, known as the Space Launch System
[https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/sls/index.html], and a crew capsule
called Orion [https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/orion/index.html] to take
people into deep space. The biggest missing piece of the equation was a lander
to take humans down to the Moon.
Starship was selected as a lander that will launch using the SpaceX Super Heavy
rocket. Starship is the spacecraft that SpaceX currently has in development,
which is designed as a fully reusable spacecraft for missions to orbit, to the
Moon and toMars [https://crunchbase.com/organization/mars]. Super Heavy is also
currently in development, and will act as a fully reusable booster that?s
capable of propelling the large mass of Starship to orbit with a full payload.
Starship as a lander choice is an interesting one, because it?s a very different
model and design from landers that have made the trip previously.
SpaceX human-rated Starship conceptBlue Origin?s
[https://crunchbase.com/organization/blue-origin]Blue Moon is more traditionally
designed, as far as dedicated landers go, and involves a multipart descent and
ascent system that?s less integrated than Starship. ?Blue Moon will be able to
be launched on both Blue Origin?s New Glenn rocket and ULA?s Vulcan. Like
Starship, then the Blue Moon lander system could use a different launch vehicle
to make the trip before carrying astronauts.
Blue Origin?s Blue Moon lander conceptDynetics
[https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/dynetics], which is a subsidiary of
Leidos (formerly SAIC) has a long history of demonstrated expertise in space and
defence, and was originally founded in 1969. It?ll be developing its Dynetics
Human Landing System, which includes one lander with ascent and descent
capabilities, and it?ll be carried aboard the ULA Vulcan launch system on its
trip to the Moon. Dynetics is working with a number of subcontractors on its
system, including Sierra Nevada Corp.
The Dynetics Human Landing System concept designIn total, the contracts
represent a combined $967 million in award value, with payouts dependent on
providers hitting milestones over the course of a 10-month period. NASA noted on
the call that this is a very different scenario to last time it went to the
Moon, since many of the technologies required to do so already exist, and since
many of the companies participating have already themselves invested
significantly in pursuing the development of these vehicles.
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