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Fri, Mar 25, 2022

NASA Updates Lunar Lander Program Requirements

Additional Artemis Contractor To Be Sought for Redundancy, Competition

NASA has updated those following the Artemis program with bated breath, going over the current state of the commercial moon lander program.

Under the current approach to Artemis, NASA is requesting American companies to propose lander concepts capable of ferrying astronauts between lunar orbit and the surface, and possibly going even further beyond in similar missions to Mars. The new landers will dock with a lunar-orbit space station, Gateway, that will allow for increased crew capacity on the mission with another waypoint to transport, store, and organize cargo between Earth and Luna. 

The Artemis lander is a critical piece of the crewed mission to the moon's surface, and vital to the overall branding and public perception of NASA's new efforts to return astronauts for the first time in decades. Last year, NASA chose SpaceX as the corporate partner to develop the lander, with a demonstration mission targeted for April 2025 at the latest. The agency has updated its criteria for the lander, proposing the system become a spacecraft that meets the requirements for recurring services under a second demonstration mission. The change ties into options in the contract for the lander program. 

NASA plans to issue a draft solicitation in the coming weeks for a second lunar lander program to operate in parallel with SpaceX, which will lay out requirements for future development. The agency hopes the addition will increase competition among companies while providing a measure of redundancy in services. The timetable under the revised lander program is expected to provide capability "as early as the 2026 or 2027 timeframe," said Lisa Watson-Morgan, a NASA program manager. “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.”

“Under Artemis, NASA will carry out a series of groundbreaking missions on and around the Moon to prepare for the next giant leap for humanity: a crewed mission to Mars,” said NASA administrator Bill Nelson. “Competition is critical to our success on the lunar surface and beyond, ensuring we have the capability to carry out a cadence of missions over the next decade. Thank you to the Biden Administration and Congress for their support of this new astronaut lander opportunity, which will ultimately strengthen and increase flexibility for Artemis.”



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