NASA chooses SpaceX spacecraft to land next Americans on the moon

Astronaut Artemis on the moon

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Illustration of the design of the SpaceX Starship human lander that will transport NASA’s first astronauts to the surface of the moon as part of the Artemis program. Credit: SpaceX

NASA is preparing to send astronauts to further explore the moon as part of the Artemis program, and the agency has selected SpaceX to further develop the first commercial human lander that will safely transport America’s next two astronauts to the lunar surface. At least one of these astronauts will make history as the first woman on the moon. Another goal of the Artemis program is to land the first person of color on the lunar surface.

The agency’s powerful Space Launch System rocket will launch four astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft for their multi-day journey into lunar orbit. There, two crew members will be transferred to the SpaceX Human Landing System (HLS) for the final leg of their journey to the moon’s surface. After about a week of exploring the surface, they will board the lander for their short trip back to orbit where they will return to Orion and their colleagues before returning to Earth.

The total value of the firm fixed price and phased contract award is $ 2.89 billion.

“With this award, NASA and our partners will complete the first crewed demonstration mission to the surface of the Moon in the 21st century as the agency takes a step forward for women’s equality and long-term exploration deep space, ”said Kathy Lueders, NASA. Associate Director of the Human Exploration Missions and Operations Department. “This critical milestone puts humanity on a path of sustainable lunar exploration and keeps its eyes on missions further into the solar system, including Mars. »

SpaceX worked closely with experts from NASA during the HLS base performance period to inform the design of its lander and ensure it meets NASA performance requirements and manned flight standards. A key principle for safe systems, these agreed standards range from the fields of engineering, safety, health and medical technical fields.

“This is an exciting time for NASA and especially for the Artemis team,” said Lisa Watson-Morgan, HLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “During the Apollo program, we proved that it is possible to do what seems impossible: land humans on the moon. Taking a collaborative approach by working with industry while leveraging NASA’s proven technical expertise and capabilities, we will once again bring American astronauts back to the surface of the Moon, this time to explore new areas during longer periods.

Illustration of an Artemis astronaut on the Moon. Credit: NASA

SpaceX’s HLS spacecraft, designed to land on the moon, builds on the company’s tested Raptor engines and the flying legacy of the Falcon and Dragon vehicles. Starship includes a spacious cabin and two airlocks for astronaut moon walks. The architecture of the Starship is intended to evolve into a fully reusable launch and landing system designed for travel to the Moon, Mars and other destinations.

The HLS Prize is awarded in the framework of Upcoming Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP-2), Annex H, Agency General Announcement (BAA).

Along with the execution of the Annex H award, NASA intends to implement a competitive market for sustainable manned lunar surface transport services that will provide human access to the lunar surface using the gateway. on a regular and recurring basis beyond the initial crewed demonstration mission.

With NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, HLS, and the Gateway Lunar Outpost, NASA and its business and international partners return to the moon for scientific discovery, economic benefit and inspiration for a new generation. In collaboration with its partners throughout the Artemis program, the agency will refine precision landing technologies and develop new mobility capabilities to allow the exploration of new regions of the Moon. Above ground, the agency offered to build new habitat and rovers, test new electrical systems and more. These innovations and advancements in the Artemis program, along with others, will ensure that NASA and its partners are ready for the next big step in human exploration – the exploration of Mars.

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