NASA has asked the private sector to come up with ideas for a new moon lander for astronauts.
Through a program called Artemis, the space agency is trying to get people to live on and around the moon for a long time by the end of the 2020s. NASA announced in 2021 that it had chosen SpaceX’s Starship as the lander for the program’s first crewed surface mission, Artemis 3, which is set to land near the moon’s south pole in 2025 or 2026.
NASA requests proposals for 2nd moon
Officials from the agency said in March of this year that they wanted to encourage the development of a second crewed lander for Artemis to make the program more reliable and safe. Today, September 16, NASA put out a call for proposals from private companies as part of this plan.
Work done under this solicitation, along with current lander development and studies, will help lay the groundwork for long-term deep space exploration, Lisa Watson-Morgan, program manager for the Human Landing System Program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, said in a statement today (opens in new tab).
Watson-Morgan said, “By working with American companies to do this work, we can now use NASA’s knowledge and expertise to encourage technological innovations that will help us stay on the moon for a long time.”
NASA sent out a draught of the new solicitation on March 31
NASA sent out a draught of the new solicitation on March 31. In April, they held a virtual “industry day” about it, and today they sent out the final call. The deadline for proposals this year is November 15. Companies that get the contract will have to do two demonstration flights to the surface of the moon, one without people on board and one with people on board. SpaceX has a similar requirement in its contract with NASA. The crewed test flight is part of the Artemis 3 mission.
NASA wants Starship to be a long-term part of the Artemis program, even though SpaceX won’t be able to bid on the new contract. NASA officials said in a statement released today that they plan to use an option in SpaceX’s current contract to ask the company to change its Artemis 3 Starship design “to meet an extended set of requirements for sustaining missions at the moon and conduct another crewed demonstration landing.”
NASA is getting ready for Artemis
In just a few days, the Artemis program could gain a lot of steam. NASA is getting ready for Artemis 1, which will be the program’s first test flight. It will use a Space Launch System rocket to send an unmanned Orion capsule to lunar orbit and back.
Artemis 1 was supposed to take off on August 29, but technical problems delayed the launch several times. The agency is planning for the launch to happen on September 27.
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