Three companies competing for one major NASA contract and major bragging rights.
We’re less than five years away from NASA’s goal of putting humans back on the moon for the first time since 1972.
Now we’re closer than ever to knowing who’s going to build the moon lander that takes astronauts back to the surface.
NASA has awarded contracts totaling nearly a billion dollars to three companies
They’ll be designing human landing systems for the Artemis program, one of which will put the first woman on the moon in 2024.
So today we’re going to look at how NASA plans to reach the moon And how each company plans to get us to the actual surface.
Astronauts will take off on NASA’s Space Launch System.
When it’s finished, it will be the most powerful rocket NASA has ever built.
Onboard the SLS will be the Orion Crew Capsule.
That’s the spacecraft that will carry NASA astronauts to lunar orbit.
And eventually back home.
And here is where those lunar landing proposals come in.
Now, you’ve heard plenty about Blue Origin and SpaceX.
So I wanna start with a company you’ve probably heard the least about.
That’s a Netflix.
It’s working on the aptly named Dianetics human landing system.
This is a two stage single structure lander is designed to carry up to four astronauts at a time.
This can be launched on SLS.
But NASA says if selected, this would ride on the Vulcan launch system, which is another heavy rocket dynamics designed its lander with convenience in mind.
The crew cabin would sit low to the surface making it easier for astronauts to get in and out and move supplies back and forth.
Now this conduct either with the Orion or the gateway, what’s the gateway?
Well, that’s a permanent outpost that NASA wants to have orbiting the moon, a little like the International Space Station.
The idea is to have a sort of staging area for moon missions, and eventually missions to Mars.
Now granted, Dianetics doesn’t have the same name, record.
ignition as the other contenders but it’s worth noting that it’s already been working with NASA on the SOS in other capacities.
Let’s move in to SpaceX.
Elon Musk’s company is hoping to use it’s Starship to get humans to the lunar surface.
You’ve probably heard about this one.
This is the rocket that SpaceX has been running tests on out in Texas.
Space X wants the Starship to eventually get us to Mars.
So we’re talking about a slightly modified version designed for the moon.
This would fly to lunar orbit without the flaps and heat shield.
It would otherwise need to return to earth.
Now, once in lunar orbit, it would dock with the Orion.
Though it’s also capable of talking with the gateway.
And then take astronauts to the lunar surface.
Now once their mission is complete, they would then ride the starship back to Orion, which would then bring them back home.
Blue Origin is a bit of an outlier in this competition in that it’s working with several other contractors on what’s being called the national team also made up of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper Their design, known as the integrated lander vehicle is a three stage lander.
Again, this is designed to dock with either the Orion or gateway.
But this is made up of multiple elements, one for transferring astronauts from the Orion, one for descending to the moon, and one for sending back to the Orion and this system could be launched either on commercial rockets.
Or along on the SLS.
And the race is on here.
All three teams have until February to refine those concepts.
At that point, NASA decides of which one it wants to move forward with.
We’re still four years away from NASA.
Target going to the moon.
And it’s worth noting that development of the SLS hasn’t been total smooth sailing, been marred by delays and mounting costs.
And it’s entirely possible that it’s not ready for that 2024 deadline.
Still, this is all so exciting.
I mean, we’re on the cusp of entering a major new era of space exploration, particularly because these missions are expected to set the stage for getting to Mars.
So you’ve seen all the designs.
Which one do you think is the best moonshot?
Let us know in the comments below.