SpaceX will officially build the lunar lander that will ferry NASA astronauts to the moon for the first time since the Apollo program.
Last year, NASA awarded the Human Landing System (HLS) program to three commercial teams, including Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX. These companies were tasked to develop innovative landing systems for the Artemis program.
But on April 16, Space.com reported that the US space agency announced that SpaceX has beat out its two competitors and therefore won the $2.9 billion contract to build the Artemis program's lunar lander.
"We have awarded SpaceX to continue the development of our integrated human landing system," HLS program manager Lisa Watson-Morgan announced on Friday.
She added that they are hoping that NASA's partnership with SpaceX will help achieve the goals of the Artemis program, and they look forward to work towards landing astronauts on the Moon and prepare for the future Mars mission.
SpaceX Wins NASA Contract
NASA awarded the commercial human lander project to SpaceX as part of its Artemis program to which the US space agency said the lander will carry two American astronauts to the lunar surface, Reuters reported.
NASA's acting administrator Steve Jurczyk said that they aim to accomplish the lunar landing as soon as possible. They are hoping that SpaceX will hit milestones to have a shot at accomplishing their goal of returning to the Moon in 2024.
SpaceX will use its Starship to carry astronauts to the Moon. It has a large cabin and two airlocks for astronaut moonwalks. It is built to evolve into a completely reusable launch and landing system, specially designed for the journey to the Moon, Mars, and other destinations in space.
In their Twitter post, SpaceX responds to NASA's announcement by saying: "We are humbled to help @NASAArtemis usher in a new era of human space exploration."
According to TechCrunch, SpaceX won over NASA's trust after their successful commercial crew program, sending astronauts to the International Space Station with their reliable and reusable spacecraft in Crew Dragon. It has paved the way for SpaceX to win other contracts from NASA.
As of now, SpaceX continues to test its Starship prototype with recent flight testing that ended with an explosion before landing. But other elements of the spacecraft so far, like reorienting itself midair before landing, have been successful in the past.
First Woman and First Person of Color on the Moon
According to Space.com, NASA aims to use the Artemis program to land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon. This will also mark the first time NASA astronauts will land on the lunar surface since the last Apollo program in 1972.
But NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate associate administrator Kathy Lueders said that they are hoping to accomplish this mission sustainably and gain insights to learn from lessons that will propel humanity into greater heights of space exploration.
"When NASA returns to the moon with Artemis program, it will go in a way that reflects the world today," Leuders said.
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