Boeing unveils "fewest steps" lunar lander plan
Boeing has presented NASA with a new proposal for a simplified plan to return US astronauts to the Moon by 2024 as part of the space agency's Artemis program. By using NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), the company proposes a way of delivering its integrated Human Lander System (HLS) to the lunar surface and returning it to orbit with as few steps as possible.
The acronym KISS, standing for Keep It Simple, Stupid, isn't just a glib expression, it contains a very real truth that engineers strive to follow. When all other factors are equal, the simplest design and the plan with the fewest steps is the most likely to be the most successful. This is because every added step and every added component introduces one more opportunity for something to go wrong.
That seems to be the thinking behind Boeing's new strategy for a manned lunar landing. The main innovation involves eliminating the need for a space tug to deliver the HLS to the Moon by sending it there directly using the SLS. According to the company, this approach, which is similar to that used in the Apollo landings, would reduce the number of mission-critical steps for a landing from over 11 to only five.
The SLS, which will be the most powerful rocket ever deployed, will allow heavy payloads to be sent directly to the Moon, allowing a more flexible approach and shortening development time to meet NASA's 2024 deadline. In addition, the lander is being designed to incorporate technology from Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft that will allow it to work with both NASA's Gateway lunar orbiter and the Orion spacecraft, the latter which would allow the HLS to make a landing without the need for a third spacecraft to return the astronauts to Earth.
"Using the lift capability of NASA’s Space Launch System Block 1B, we have developed a ‘Fewest Steps to the Moon’ approach that minimizes mission complexity, while offering the safest and most direct path to the lunar surface," says Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Space and Launch for Boeing Defense, Space & Security.