NASA has chosen Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build the spacecraft that plans to return humans to the moon this decade.
The car will actually transport the next man first woman To the surface of the moon, according to the Space Agency’s Artemis program.
Another goal of the program is to take the first person of color to the moon.
The design of the lunar spacecraft is based on the SpaceX spacecraft, which is being tested at an experimental station in southern Texas.
SpaceX was competing against a joint tender made up of traditional aviation giants and Jeff Bezos’ Amazon subsidiary, as well as a proposal from Dyntex, an Alabama-based technology company.
The total value of the contract awarded to Musk is $ 2.890 Million US Dollars.
“With this choice, NASA and our partners will complete the first manned demonstration mission to the surface of the Moon in the 21st century as the agency advances toward women’s equality and long-term exploration of the world – deep space,” said Cathy Loaders. Acting Director of Human Exploration.
“This crucial step puts humanity on a path to sustainable exploration of the moon and makes us focus on missions beyond the solar system, including Mars.”
The Artemis program, which began during the Donald Trump administration, aims to return to the surface of the Moon in 2024. But budget deficit As for the financing of the moon landing system, this goal was pushed back.
Elon Musk has been developing the Starship design for years. Similar to rockets from the golden age of science fiction movies, they are a crucial component of the billionaire businessman’s long-range plans to populate Mars with humans.
However, for now, it will act as a lunar landing unit that will transport astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface of the satellite.
With a spacious cabin and two decompression chambers, which will allow astronauts to leave to walk on the surface of the moon, it is very different from the Structural Lunar Module (ML) that placed 12 men on the moon with the US Apollo program between 1969 and 1972.
The new car will be known as Human Landing System (HLS).
Recently, NASA has chosen more than one company to obtain transportation services, which has given it options in the event that one of them does not meet the goals.
But NASA has received only $ 850 million of the $ 3.3 billion it requested from Congress to build the lunar probe. “While the agency continues to want to maintain a competitive environment during this stage of the HLS program,” Lawyers said in a statement, its current budget has prevented it from choosing two companies as expected.
It is believed that the cost was an important factor; SpaceX was the lowest bid by a “large margin” among the three competitors.
“I’ve decided it would be in the agency’s best interest to make this conditional pre-selection for SpaceX,” Lueders explained.
The decision caused an uproar in Congress.
NASA is subject to the transition of power After the election of President Joe Biden. Run by an interim official, the person Biden appointed to head the agency – former Senator and former astronaut Bill Nelson – will have to be confirmed through congressional hearings next week.
“I am disappointed that the NASA interim leadership decided to award such a committee before the arrival of the new and permanent NASA director and deputy director,” said Democratic Congressman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
“The decision to award the committee today also comes despite an apparent need to re-examine NASA’s lunar exploration program, which has no real possibility of returning American astronauts to the moon by 2024.”
The moon’s south polar region will be NASA’s target for the first astronaut landing since 1972. This area contains abundant tanks of frozen water, Which can be converted into rocket fuel and fresh air to support a future lunar base.
But landing there also poses challenges, because the sun’s angle casts long shadows that obscure the surface terrain as the spacecraft descends.
Engineers will have to solve the problem as they revise their plans for the first Artemis landing.
SpaceX was competing against the national team – made up of Blue Origin (founded by Bezos), Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Dabber – and defense project contractors Dynetics.
The commission represents Another milestone for the company Musk founded 19 years ago, Which has had to overcome broad initial doubts about its plans to cut spaceflight costs. SpaceX is barely running out of money, but it has managed to stay afloat thanks to NASA’s serendipitous contract in 2008.
Since then, he has achieved massive success with the launch of commercial satellites and secured a lucrative contract to transport crew members to the International Space Station.
The Starship is currently undergoing testing at a facility in Boca Chica, South Texas. A number of unmanned prototypes were launched at altitudes of 10 km or more, before being turned back in a smooth landing and landing attempt. However, The last tests ended with explosions of the vehiclesWhether near or above the landing platform.
“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.
“During the Apollo program, we saw that it was possible to achieve what seemed impossible: to bring humans to the surface of the Moon. Through a collaborative strategy, working with industry, and leveraging NASA’s proven technical capabilities and expertise, we would bring American astronauts to the surface of the Moon again, this time to explore New areas for longer periods of time. “
The Artemis program seeks to create Long-term presence on the moon, Including the creation of a lunar base.
You can now receive push notifications from BBC Mundo. Download the new version of our app and activate it so that you don’t miss our best content.
“Reader. Organizer. Infuriatingly humble twitter expert. Certified communicator.”