SpaceX will not only go to the moon if NASA officials get their wish. can be a blessing Space dreams by Jeff Bezos.
As part of Artemis, NASA’s program to return astronauts to the Moon, in 2019 the agency looked to hire two companies to provide landing vehicles to transport astronauts from lunar orbit to the lunar surface. But with insufficient funding from Congress, the agency decided in April of last year to award just one contract, to SpaceX.
NASA officials said other companies will have the opportunity to compete for future missions.
On Wednesday, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the space agency will soon announce a competition to develop a second lunar lander.
“I promised to compete,” said Mr. Nelson, “so here it is.”
The second company will share NASA’s lunar missions — about one a year over the course of a decade or so — with SpaceX. “These are not isolated missions,” said Mr. Nelson. “Each of them will build on past progress.”
Similar to last year’s SpaceX contract, the second company will receive funding for two landings — one without astronauts to demonstrate the spacecraft’s capabilities, and then a second mission with astronauts.
The goal would be for a manned mission to take place in 2026 or 2027, said Jim Frey, NASA associate administrator for exploration systems development.
Lunar landers are following NASA’s recent approach of looking for fixed-price contracts, setting specific requirements but encouraging innovation by allowing private companies to create their own designs to meet agency needs and competing on price. This approach led to The SpaceX capsule that transports astronauts to and from the International Space Station. In the past, NASA generally led the development of rockets and spacecraft, and companies paid to implement plans, usually at much higher costs.
However, the plan for a second spacecraft on the moon relies on Congress providing money to pay for it. Mr. Nelson said he will not discuss how much the program will cost until the president’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2023 is released early next week.
After SpaceX was named the only winner last year, the two companies that lost out – Blue Origin, the rocket company started by Mr. Bezos, founder of Amazon; and Dynetics, a defense contractor – lodged protests with the Federal Government Accountability Office. Blue Origin’s proposal was twice the price of SpaceX’s bid and Dynetics’ bid was even higher.
The Government Accountability Office ruled against both companies.
Then Blue Origin sued NASA in federal court. lost again.
Blue Origin and Dynetics now have a second chance, as do other companies willing to pitch. Lisa Watson Morgan, NASA’s Human Landing System program manager, said the agency plans to make a decision on a second lander by early next year.
In a statement, Dynetics said the company was “delighted to learn of NASA’s plans,” and looks forward to reviewing the upcoming call for proposals.
Blue Origin also welcomed the announcement. “Blue Origin is pleased that NASA is creating competition by purchasing a second human moon landing system,” the company said in its statement. “Blue Origin is ready to compete and remains deeply committed to Artemis’ success.”
The requirements for a second lander will be more ambitious – more cargo, longer stays on the surface – reflecting a desire to take on more ambitious missions on the moon.
In addition, NASA will negotiate with SpaceX under its existing contract to build a lander that meets the new requirements, Ms. Watson Morgan said.
NASA’s journey to send astronauts to the Moon has been long and winding, and the current 2025 goal of adding new American footprints on the Moon seems unrealistically optimistic.
NASA is still making progress.
giant rocket Space Launch System, now finally on the launchpad At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, although he will remain there for now. Next month, NASA will hold a countdown rehearsal — refueling the rocket but not igniting the engines. The missile will then return to the Vehicle Assembly Building – essentially a huge long garage for the missiles – for final preparations for a crewless test launch called Artemis 1 that could happen as early as this summer. It will send a capsule, Orion, around the moon and back to Earth.
Artemis’ second mission will be the first to ride astronauts inside the crew’s Orion capsule at the top of an SLS rocket. That flight, scheduled for May 2024, will enter lunar orbit before returning to Earth.
The first moon landing would not occur until 2025, during the period of Artemis 3. Four astronauts were once again taking an Orion capsule into lunar orbit where they docked with the craft. SpaceX Starship, which will be there waiting for them. NASA said two astronauts – the first woman and the first person of color – will transfer to the spacecraft and then land near the moon’s south pole and stay on the surface for about a week.
SpaceX has launched a series of models of the spacecraft from its southern Texas position to an altitude of about six miles to show how its abdomen will flop after re-entering the atmosphere to slow down and then descend vertically. In May, after four failed attempts, One of the prototypes landed successfully. SpaceX aims to launch the first orbital flight from the Starship in the coming months.
The goal of returning astronauts to the Moon has been revived during the Trump administration. NASA officials at the time, and now under the Biden administration, insisted that the goal this time around was not the end itself, but rather the beginning of larger human explorations of the moon, and ultimately beyond the solar system.
With Wednesday’s announcement, NASA is trying to turn that hope into an ongoing program.
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