This content was published on April 16, 2021 – 11:28 PM
NASA has chosen SpaceX to take the first American astronauts to the moon since 1972, the US Space Agency announced Friday, a major victory for Elon Musk.
The $ 2.9 billion contract includes a prototype of the Starship spacecraft, which is being tested at SpaceX facilities in South Texas.
“Today I’m very excited, and we’re all very excited, to announce that we have chosen SpaceX to continue developing the Integrated Human Landing System,” said Lisa Watson Morgan, Program Manager at NASA.
Thus SpaceX outperforms Blue Origin and Jeff Bezos’ defense contractor Dynetics and becomes the only supplier of the system. It is a surprising milestone in the practices of NASA, which many companies usually choose, in order to block themselves in the event of any failure.
Industry analysts said the decision confirms that the company, which Musk founded in 2002 with the goal of colonizing Mars, is NASA’s most trusted partner in the private sector.
Last year, SpaceX became the first private company to successfully send a crew to the International Space Station, restoring North America’s ability to accomplish this feat for the first time since the end of the space shuttle program.
For the proposal to land on the surface of the Moon, SpaceX presented its reusable spacecraft, which is designed to transport large crews and payloads to travel through space to deep space and to perform a vertical landing on Earth and on other celestial bodies.
Prototypes of the spacecraft are being tested at the company’s facilities, although all four versions that have tried test flights so far have exploded.
– Artemis program –
As part of Artemis’ program to return humans to the moon, NASA wants to use its Space Launch System to transport four astronauts aboard an Orion crew capsule, which will then dock with a space station on the surface of the moon called the Gateway.
The spacecraft will wait for two crew members on the final leg of the flight to the surface of the Moon.
The idea is for the gate to be an intermediate station, but for the initial mission, Orion could link directly to the spacecraft, Watson-Morgan explained.
The astronauts would then spend a week on the moon before boarding the SpaceX spacecraft back into lunar orbit and then riding Orion back to Earth.
On the other hand, Musk plans to merge the Starship spacecraft with its super-heavy rocket to create a combined spacecraft that will have a height of 120 meters and will be the most powerful launch vehicle ever implemented.
Humanity last set foot on the moon in 1972, during the Apollo program. NASA wants to return and create a sustainable presence, with a lunar space station, to test new technologies that will pave the way for a manned mission to Mars.
In 2019, then United States Vice President Mike Pence challenged NASA to put the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024, but that timeframe will likely be relaxed under Joe Biden’s leadership.
Another change from the current government is its stated goal of bringing the first non-white person to the moon under the Artemis program.