🌒 NASA to support Starship competitor
With an intended permanent presence on the moon, NASA now aim to have two separate spacecraft from different companies.
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We've already covered SpaceX's Starship, a craft designed to take NASA astronauts to the moon and mars. On Wednesday, March 23, they announced plans to fund a competing lunar lander design.
The new contract is known as the Sustaining Lunar Development contract, and as the name implies, the goal is to create a craft suitable for recurring missions. What this entails specifically is unclear, beyond the ability to dock to the Gateway space station and to carry more crew and payload to the surface. This specific contract is one where SpaceX isn't allowed to apply.
This is not caused by a lack of faith in SpaceX, as that company also is getting tasked to modify its craft in a similar manner. Instead, the purpose is to achieve a level of redundancy and to have two experienced players able to provide these services.
“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(...)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”, said Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator.
A likely, albeit not explicitly stated, reason for this could also be to create an industry with competing parties, which in turn could make the moon viable for commercial players. This would be in line with the vision of creating a self-sustaining lunar economy.
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