NASA has selected SpaceX to land the first astronauts since 1972 on the lunar surface, the agency said on Friday. This was a huge win for Elon Musk’s company.
The $ 2.9 billion order relates to the prototype of the Starship spacecraft, which is being tested at SpaceX’s South Texas facility.
“Today I’m very excited and we’re all excited to announce that we have recognized SpaceX for continuing to develop our integrated human landing system,” said Lisa Watson-Morgan, program manager for NASA’s human landing system.
SpaceX knocks out Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and defense company Dynetics as the sole vendor for the system. This is a surprising break from the past when NASA selected multiple companies in the event of a failure.
Industry analysts said the decision underscored the company, founded by Musk in 2002 with the aim of colonizing Mars as NASA’s most trusted partner in the private sector.
Last year, SpaceX was the first private company to successfully deploy a crew to the International Space Station, restoring American capacities to accomplish the feat for the first time since the end of the shuttle program.
For its offer for moon lander, SpaceX presented its reusable spaceship spaceship, which is supposed to transport large crews and cargo for space travel and land upright on earth and other celestial bodies.
Prototypes of the ship are currently being put through their paces at the company’s South Texas facility, although all four versions have tried so far Test flights exploded.
As part of the Artemis program for the return of humans to the moon, NASA intends to use the Space Launch System rocket to launch four astronauts on board an Orion crew capsule, which will then dock at a lunar space station called the Gateway.
The spaceship is waiting to receive two crew members for the final leg of the journey to the lunar surface.
The idea is that Gateway is the go-between, but for the first mission, Orion could dock directly with Starship, Watson-Morgan said.
The astronauts then spent a week on the moon before boarding the spacecraft to return there Lunar orbit, then bring Orion back to Earth.
Separately, SpaceX plans to combine the Starship spacecraft with its own super heavy rocket to build a combined ship that will be 120 meters tall and the most powerful launcher ever deployed.
Humanity last set foot on the moon in 1972 during the Apollo program.
NASA plans to return and build a sustained presence with a lunar space station to test new technology that will pave the way for a crewed mission to Mars.
In 2019, then-Vice President Mike Pence urged NASA to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024, but the time span under President Joe Biden is likely to be relaxed.
Another change under the current administration is the stated goal of bringing the first colored person to the moon under the Artemis program.
© 2021 AFP
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