NASA looks for more companies to establish Moon presence

NASA is opening competition for private companies to build the landers for missions that follow

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA’s next rocket to the Moon is on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. But NASA is looking beyond the first mission, and calling for companies to help build lunar landers, not just to send astronauts to Moon, but to keep them there.

NASA held a teleconference Wednesday afternoon with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson; Jim Free, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate; Mark Kirasich, deputy associate administrator for Artemis campaign development; and Lisa Watson-Morgan, Human Landing System Program manager.

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The Artemis missions, named for the moon goddess and twin sister of Apollo, is planning to land humans on the moon no earlier than 2025. In these missions, NASA said it will land the first woman and person of color on the moon.

NASA is opening competition for private companies to build the landers for missions that follow.

“We expect approximately one human landing per year over a decade or so. Each is going to build on the past progress,” said Nelson.

Therefore, Nelson says whoever competes with SpaceX will need their moon lander to be able to dock with the lunar space station NASA plans to build - the Gateway.

“Artemis is a complex campaign with many exciting milestones ahead of us,” said Free. “Just last week, Artemis I rolling out to the pad for wet dress rehearsal. Truly, an incredible moment as we head toward launch in the near future.”

In Washington, Nelson says he expects Congress and the White House to support funding more lunar landers starting with next year’s budget.

NASA is currently preparing for its Artemis I mission, with its Orion spacecraft and Space Launch Systems rocket, and rolled out the rocket for the first time at Kennedy Space Center last week. The 322-foot-tall rocket with two heavy rocket boosters weighs in at 18 million pounds and is for the first SLS uncrewed launch around the moon.

The rollout is part of a “wet dress rehearsal” process that will encompass everything up to and including the fueling of the rocket and a final countdown to launch simulation, according to News 6 partner Florida Today. It will then spend about a month on the pad during the prep, test and post-test phases, then roll back to the VAB for final work.

Artemis I will be an uncrewed test flight, featuring a human-weighted manikin and two dummy torsos to fly around the moon and return to Earth. If successful, the team will begin preparations for the crewed mission, Artemis II.

After that mission is Artemis III, which will see American astronauts land on the moon again.

About the Author:

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.