NASA narrows the field of firms to build its Artemis lunar lander
Through its Artemis mission, NASA will endeavor to return humans, including the first woman, to the Moon in the year 2024, and it has just narrowed down the field of firms that will help carry the astronauts safely down to the lunar surface. Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX have been selected to develop the human landing systems for the program, and will now begin refining their lander concepts with a view to carrying out demonstration missions a little further down the track.
As it stands, NASA’s Artemis program involves a mishmash of aerospace companies vying to build the various pieces of the puzzle that will return humans to the Moon within the next five years. This includes industry stalwarts like Lockheed Martin and Northrup Gunman, along with fresher faces such as Blue Origin and SpaceX.
Those two private space companies have now been chosen to move ahead with design concepts for the mission’s landing system, along with Alabama’s Dynetics, which has been eyeing a return to the Moon with NASA for quite some time. All three will now move ahead with developing lander concepts over the next 10 months, with NASA to evaluate the designs up until February 2021.
We already know a little about Blue Origin’s vision for a lunar lander, with the company announcing its plans to build such a system for NASA last year – called Descent Element, it will be designed around the company's BE-7 engine. SpaceX will use its Starship system featuring an integrated landing module, while Dynetics’ Human Landing System is designed to launch on the ULA Vulcan launch system.
Through its evaluations of these different concepts, NASA will determine which ones will progress to the next step of performing demonstration missions. The end game for the agency is to end up with a sustainable and commercially viable transport service it can use to ferry astronauts to the lunar surface, with the goal of the Artemis mission being not just to get to the Moon, but to stay there.
“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,” says NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “This is the first time since the Apollo era that NASA has direct funding for a human landing system, and now we have companies on contract to do the work for the Artemis program.”
You can hear more about the announcement in the video below.