NASA plans to return humans to the moon, the space agency announced that SpaceX will build the vehicle that will take astronauts to the lunar surface. Nasa is targeting the Moon’s South Polar region. This area holds abundant deposits of water-ice, which could be turned into rocket fuel and breathable air to support a future lunar base. Landing here will be challenging because of the long shadows that obscure the moon’s surface.

SpaceX is given NASA Contract 

 The Artemis missions and new space vehicle will carry the next man and the first woman to the moon’s surface. The lander is based on SpaceX’s Starship craft. SpaceX was competing against bids from many people such as traditional aerospace giants and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. NASA awarded the $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk.  “NASA has chosen SpaceX to return us to the moon,” a representative said in a press conference. The representative said the next phase will involve testing the technology.  “With this award, Nasa and our partners will complete the first crewed demonstration mission to the surface of the Moon in the 21st century as the agency takes a step forward for women’s equality and long-term deep space exploration,” said Kathy Lueders, the organisation’s head of human exploration.

The Artemis Program 

The Artemis program was first initiated under former President Trump. The Biden administration has supported the program. Trump’s team pushed for a crewed mission to the moon’s surface in 2024. Congress has not provided the amount of funding for the program that would be needed to complete the work by that deadline. NASA is reevaluating costs to determine the soonest date they could launch people on a lunar mission. The Artemis I mission is expected to launch in late 2021. This test flight of Orion and NASA’s SLS will not be crewed. Artemis II will be using the SLS and Orion crafts to fly a crew around the moon and back without landing. This is similar to the Apollo 8 mission of 1968. Artemis III will use SLS, Orion, and SpaceX’s Starship to help a crew journey the quarter million miles to the moon’s surface. Plans are for Orion to dock with a Human Landing System, such as SpaceX’s Starship. The ship will wait in orbit around the moon up to a hundred days before the mission arrives. The spaceship will bring the astronauts to the surface of the moon. 

The crew will also launch from the moon on the ship to transfer back to the waiting Orion spacecraft, and fly home. The Starship, resembling the rocket ships from the golden age of science fiction, has been in development by Elon Musk for years. This craft has a lot more space than the previous Lunar Modules. For now it will transport people from lunar orbit to the surface but it is also a crucial component of the entrepreneur’s long-term plans for settling humans on Mars.

Written by: Erinn Malloy

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