NASA announced today that they have selected SpaceX to bring Americans to the Moon as part of the Artemis program.
According to Greek mythology, Artemis was the daughter of Leto and Zeus, and the twin of Apollo. She is the goddess of the wilderness, the hunt and wild animals, and fertility; Artemis is also considered as one of the helpers of midwives as a goddess of birth. The original Moon landing project in the 1960s and 1970s was known as the “Apollo Mission.”
NASA will use their Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to launch four astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft for their multi-day journey to lunar orbit. There, two crew members will transfer to the SpaceX human landing system (HLS) for the final leg of their journey to the surface of the Moon. After approximately a week exploring the surface, they will board the lander for their short trip back to orbit where they will return to Orion and their colleagues before heading back to Earth. NASA says the firm-fixed price, milestone-based contract total award value for the mission is $2.89 billion.
In 2017, then-President Trump set a goal to return Americans to the moon, a goal that NASA continues to march towards to today. “Under my Administration, we are restoring NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars,” President Trump said at the time. The presidential directive issued to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) ordered them to send American astronauts back to the moon and eventually to Mars, shifting the agency’s mission from the study of Earth and a longer-range plan to explore Mars. This marked a significant shift in space policy from the Obama administration, who had cut investment into human space flight to fund more climate change related work.
“This is an exciting time for NASA and especially the Artemis team,” said Lisa Watson-Morgan, program manager for HLS at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “During the Apollo program, we proved that it is possible to do the seemingly impossible: land humans on the Moon. By taking a collaborative approach in working with industry while leveraging NASA’s proven technical expertise and capabilities, we will return American astronauts to the Moon’s surface once again, this time to explore new areas for longer periods of time.”
SpaceX’s HLS Starship, designed to land on the Moon, leans on the company’s tested Raptor engines and flight heritage of the Falcon and Dragon vehicles. Starship includes a spacious cabin and two airlocks for astronaut moonwalks. The Starship architecture is intended to evolve to a fully reusable launch and landing system designed for travel to the Moon, Mars, and other destinations.