NASA announced today He plans to develop a second human lander on the moon for the Artemis program, the agency’s major spaceflight initiative to return humans to the Moon. To build the craft, the space agency is inviting commercial space companies to propose concepts for landers that could transport people to and from lunar orbit and the lunar surface, with the goal of having them ready by 2026 or 2027 at the earliest.
NASA has already won a contract with commercial partner SpaceX to develop a lunar lander for Artemis, which aims to land the first woman and first people of color on the moon. In 2021 the space agency Awarded a single contract for SpaceX worth $2.9 billion To develop the company’s future Starship vehicle into a lander that can transport humans to and from the lunar surface. As of now, both NASA and SpaceX are working on making the first landing on the Artemis moon as early as 2025, Although this timeline is considered unlikely.
NASA originally wanted to select two companies to develop human lunar vehicles for Artemis in order to inspire competition and cut costs. The agency was to choose the winners from among three finalists: SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Dynetics. But the agency eventually picked one, Primarily because of budget constraints. For 2021, NASA has asked Congress for $3.4 billion to fund the development of the Artemis lunar lander but He only received $850 million, only 25 percent of what was put forward. As a result, NASA turned to SpaceX, in part because the company offered the most affordable offers.
However, the decision to choose one company did not align with the losing finalists. Blue Origin embarked on Sue NASA in federal court over selectionalthough the company He eventually lost his case. Despite the suit, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson He wished to eventually obtain two lunar landing providersHopefully, Congress will fund the initiative. And at one point, it looked as if Congress was going to direct NASA to make it happen. In October, the Senate Appropriations Committee introduced a bill He will direct NASA to select a second company to develop a lunar lander for Artemis. However, the most recent bill signed for 2022 did not force NASA to do so, but gave the space agency It asked for $1.195 billion in full to develop lunar landers.
Now, ahead of President Joe Biden’s budget request expected next week, NASA is announcing official plans to select another company’s lunar lander, as the agency has wanted to do all along. “The competition leads to better and more reliable results,” Nelson said during a press conference announcing the news. “It benefits everyone. It benefits NASA. It benefits the American people.” “She promised to compete, there she is,” added Nelson. NASA now plans to release a draft call for proposals at the end of the month, with plans to release a final call later this spring. Everyone except SpaceX will be able to compete in this new competition for a contract.
In light of this announcement, NASA says it will make some changes to the existing SpaceX contract. NASA’s original contract with the company had SpaceX perform an unmanned moon landing as a test run before making the first manned landing in mid-2020. This first landing, which will mark NASA’s return to the Moon with humans since the 1970s, will be called Artemis III and should have many of interest. Subsequently, SpaceX had moved to a new operating contract with NASA, in which the space agency would purchase individual flights from the Starship lander to continue returning to the Moon.
Now, NASA plans to work with SpaceX under its original contract to make a third potential manned landing after Artemis III. Then, presumably, SpaceX and the new company selected by NASA will compete for the next Artemis missions — that is, if the service providers are ready.
Much of this depends on Congressional buying, which may happen because some lawmakers have indicated their desire for NASA to choose a second lunar lander. NASA did not say how much it plans to request in development funding, but rather requested the budget from President Biden Scheduled to be released on March 28The numbers will be available fairly soon. Nelson says he expects the money to materialize. “We expect to have the support of Congress and the support of the Biden administration, and we expect to start this competition in the fiscal year 2023 budget.”
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