NASA Awards US Companies Contracts for Human Moon Landing

James Marshall
May 4, 2020

The companies chosen by NASA will design and develop prototype lunar landing vehicles that will be presented to NASA officials in 2021.

NASA has selected three USA companies to design and develop human landing systems for the agency's Artemis program, one of which will land the first woman and next man on the surface of the moon by 2024. Led by Jeff Bezos, the private space company declared that its Blue Moon lunar lander in May 2019, which NASA plans to use during lunar descent to the chalky-gray surface of the Moon.

The research contracts represent "the crown jewel" in the Trump administration's effort to return astronauts to the moon by 2024, Doug Loverro, the US space agency's associate administrator for human exploration, said Thursday.

Unlike the Apollo program that put astronauts on the moon almost 50 years ago, NASA is gearing up for a long-term presence on Earth's satellite that the agency says will eventually enable humans to reach Mars, leaning heavily on private companies built around shared visions for space exploration.

The three winning bidders will begin work with NASA to refine their concepts, including defining requirements for each lander. "I fully believe that Elon Musk is going to be successful", said Bridenstine to Berger.

Dynetics, a space firm recently acquired by Leidos Holdings Inc (LDOS.N), will manage a team of 25 partners to develop its human landing system that Boeing-Lockheed joint venture United Launch Alliance will launch on its Vulcan launch system. Dynetics was in between, with $253 million. The Blue Origin lunar lander will be called Blue Moon.

By contrast, the Dynetics lander is low and it would require astronauts to take only a few steps to reach the surface. "We want to drive down the costs and increase access to space". NASA intends to procure transportation to the lunar surface as commercial space transportation services after these demonstrations are complete, according to the release. Just last November, SpaceX and Blue Origin were among the companies that won contracts to make cargo deliveries to the moon.

Meanwhile, NASA is taking ten months to assess the primacy of these new contracts, and decide which one to finalize in the production of the forthcoming lunar lander. The goal of Artemis is to not only return humans to the lunar surface, but help NASA establish a permanent deep space presence for human exploration, including to Mars and potentially beyond.

Artemis also aims to establish a long-term human presence on and around the moon by 2028.

In a teleconference with journalists, Musk enthused about the "potential for an incredibly exciting future in space with a base on the moon and ultimately sending people and having a self-sustaining city on Mars". "We're going to spend the first three months understanding the awardees' designs", said Lisa Watson-Morgan, NASA's HLS program manager.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

Discuss This Article