NASA to accept new Artemis lunar lander proposals from commercial companies

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Back in April 2021, NASA selected SpaceX to develop a lunar lander that can take astronauts to the moon for its future Artemis missions. SpaceX’s car will not be the one one flying astronauts to the floor of the Moon, although: NASA has announced that it is welcoming proposals from American companies for landers that may take human spacefarers from the Gateway station within the lunar orbit to the Moon itself. By having that functionality, the lander design can be utilized for missions past Artemis III, which would be the first crewed touchdown on the Moon since Apollo 17.

In its announcement, the company stated it is also exercising an possibility beneath its present contract with SpaceX and is asking the company to change the touchdown system it proposed to meet the new requirement. “Pursuing more development work under the original contract maximizes NASA’s investment and partnership with SpaceX,” the company stated. Having a second lunar lander “provides redundancy in services” and will help guarantee dependable transportation for astronauts that will probably be a part of future lunar missions.

While the decision for a second lunar lander is new, the plan to have a couple of company engaged on the project is not. NASA was initially supposed to select a couple of lunar lander supplier for Artemis, however the company did not obtain sufficient funding from Congress, prompting it to go together with SpaceX alone. 

Blue Origin, one of many finalists for the contract, filed a criticism with the US Court of Federal Claims, calling the choice “fundamentally unfair.” The Jeff Bezos-owned area company argued that NASA allowed SpaceX to modify its bid and wasn’t given the identical likelihood to accomplish that. To word, the contract SpaceX received was value $2.9 billion, whereas Blue Origin’s bid was nearly twice that at $5.9 billion. NASA believed Blue Origin bid excessive on goal on the belief that NASA would haggle and that it could obtain extra funding than it did. While the court docket dismissed Blue Origin’s lawsuit in November, SpaceX had to pause work on the lander twice, shedding months within the course of. When NASA pushed again the Artemis III mission to 2025, NASA administrator Bill Nelson stated Blue Origin’s lawsuit was partly to blame.

NASA will situation a draft solicitation for the second lunar lander within the coming weeks earlier than issuing a proper request for proposals this summer season.

Lisa Watson-Morgan, NASA’s Human Landing System Program supervisor, stated:

“This strategy expedites progress toward a long-term, sustaining lander capability as early as the 2026 or 2027 timeframe. We expect to have two companies safely carry astronauts in their landers to the surface of the Moon under NASA’s guidance before we ask for services, which could result in multiple experienced providers in the market.”

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