SpaceX, Blue Origin set to build NASA's manned Moon lander
By 2024, NASA hopes to land the first woman and the next man on the surface of the Moon. The work on the mission has been moving swiftly, and now, the space agency is roping in leading space-tech companies, including SpaceX and Blue Origin, to handle a major part of the project - development of the human landing system. Here's all about it.
$967 million worth contracts awarded to three companies
NASA has awarded a total of $967 million in three contracts aimed at getting lunar landers developed for the 'Artemis' Moon mission. The biggest award, worth $579 million, has gone to Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin, while the rest has been assigned to Elon Musk-led SpaceX ($135 million) and Alabama-based IT firm Dynetics ($253 million), respectively.
Goal to get initial demonstrations by February 2021
Under the awarded contracts, the companies have to develop their respective lander systems in accordance with the Artemis mission requirements and perform initial demonstrations by February 2021. Then, on the basis of those demonstration missions, the agency will select at least two firms and help them mature their projects, paving the way for the development and selection of the final lander.
Concepts pitched by the companies
While SpaceX's lander system is its in-development Starship, Blue Origin's project is an Integrated Lander Vehicle (ILV) - a three-stage system for transferring from higher to lower lunar orbit, descending from lower orbit to the surface, and ascending back to the orbit. Dynetics project, on the other side, is a single, "low-slung crew module, putting the crew very close to the lunar surface."
Major step forward for Artemis mission
"With these contract awards, America is moving forward with the final step needed to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, including the incredible moment when we will see the first woman set foot on the lunar surface," said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. He added, "This is the first time since the Apollo era that NASA has direct funding for a human landing system."