NASA is going to land on the moon again, maybe, as soon as 2020. The first woman to set foot there may arrive in 2024.
On May 31, the agency announced the first orders for project deliveries, awarding them to Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh, Intuitive Machines of Houston and Orbit Beyond of Edison, N.J.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine is currently the public face of the agency’s newly named lunar initiative, Artemis, which is expected to run on a safe, but tight schedule.
In mid-May he revealed that NASA wants an extra $1.6 billion for next year to accelerate the project.
Questions still remain about the ultimate cost of the program and the nitty-gritty details on how NASA astronauts will actually get to the lunar surface.
Bridenstine says “We’re doing this in a way that’s never been done before.”
Americans are being reminded that the nation will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 flight that captured the rapt attention of millions of TV viewers on Earth when the first two men stepped on the moon. The date was July 20, 1969.
For the new voyages, there are a lot of moving pieces. Hardware needs to be developed and tested over the next few years and some in-space assembly is definitely required.
The Artemis project is a private spaceflight venture to establish a permanent, self-supporting base on the moon. It was named after the goddess of the moon and twin sister of Apollo.
There are three projects currently underway: SLS, Orion and the European Service Module. Those are three of the biggest components in order to get humans to the moon and those programs are on the brink of being ready.
Gateway and landing systems need to be developed.
NASA is turning to commercial industry firms to provide their thoughts on how to go from the Gateway down to the surface of the moon. In essence, NASA is buying a service.
The agency is looking for those industries to make their own investments into the lander. They are expected to invest in the systems that they could also sell to private customers.
There are proposals that only require two elements to get from the Gateway down to the surface of the moon and then back to the Gateway: a descent module and an ascent module. There are other ideas that utilize three elements that would include a transfer vehicle.
The massive project will need additional government money in the years ahead but the private funding for some of the elements of the program can save American taxpayers billions of dollars.