One of the reasons why NASA is so careful with its Artemis rocket is that it is the space version of those companies that are sometimes presented as being “too big to fail”: those that we cannot allow themselves to fail, even if everyone doubts their relevance.

It should be remembered that the American space agency has already spent, against all odds, $40 billion in this program which includes the rockets, called “Space Launch System” (SLS), and the Orion capsule that the astronauts will occupy. The agency has been the victim of accumulated delays (SLS, started in 2011, was originally supposed to produce its first launch before 2020) and its detractors have easily said that it should have turned to private enterprise: these last years, both SpaceX (under Elon Musk) and Blue Origin (under Jeff Bezos) have produced their own rockets, although not yet in a “version” capable of going to the Moon.

Whether private enterprise would have done better and faster will always remain hypothetical, but certainly a failure of the Artemis 1 rocket would weigh heavily on NASA’s reputation. This rocket, uninhabited, must go into lunar orbit, paving the way for Artemis 2, which will carry three astronauts in 2024, and Artemis 3, whose occupants should land on the Moon in 2025.

The first two launch attempts, on August 29 and September 3, were postponed each time because of a hydrogen leak in a fuel tank supply pipe – the second leak being larger than the first. The next attempt could be on September 27 or October 2.

Lori Garver, former NASA administrator (from 2009 to 2013), commented in the New York Times on September 3 that hydrogen was inevitably going to be a recurring problem, because of the technological choices surrounding the SLS.

The same Lori Garver declared to Scientific American in August: “the program is fragile”. She is known as a critic of NASA’s policy of having used for this return to the Moon the same type of rocket that was used for the Apollo missions 50 to 60 years ago. Not only, she says, “the space agency’s most pressing missions involve tasks like combating climate change, defending the Earth against threatening asteroids and developing transformative technologies for the 21st century.” But in addition, when the intent is to explore other worlds, the agency should at least spend some of its budget “to spur innovations that would improve the way humans get there.”

“returning to the moon for the wrong reasons”: “ever since the time we went to the moon, we wanted to return”, but acting as if the only goal was to send a successor astronaut to the previous 12. “Maybe that’s not the right way to do it. The other way around a problem is to cut costs. »

It is accepted that, in the current state of things, the costs of the SLS make it unthinkable to continue the lunar program, beyond Artemis 3, if at least it should depend only on this rocket. This is where private enterprise could play a role, by developing its own lunar rocket, as it is already developing the future moon landing module. But this requires political will, accuses Lori Garver: “the reason we are now returning to the Moon is that the construction of the SLS has created jobs for American workers, and the elected members of Congress whose those jobs are in their districts, want to keep them”.

Artemis program: NASA wants a second lander

The Artemis missions aim to return astronauts to the Moon in the near future. If NASA already plans to use SpaceX’s huge Starship, the agency is launching a new call for tenders to have a second lander available.

The Artemis program is still in its infancy. The first of many missions, Artemis 1, had to be pushed back a third time. This aims to place an uninhabited Orion capsule into lunar orbit. The third component, Artemis 3, will consist of return astronauts to the surface of our satellite. In this context, NASA plans to collaborate with SpaceX, the company of Elon Musk, in order to use his huge Starship spaceship. This one is so imposing that the agency intends to use it as a temporary operational base. But NASA wants another lander, which should complement its big brother and provide hardware redundancy.

The space agency is working to establish a long-term human presence on and around the moon by the end of the 2020s. the agency turns openly to the private sector. Nothon Grupman is also in the process of designing a new generation moon buggy. And if NASA officially intends to use the HLS Starship for the first moon landing, this one hopes to have a second device of this type for the following missions.

Artemis program: collaboration with the private sector is a good thing, according to NASA

Lisa Watson-Morgan, Landing Systems Manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, said: “Work under this RFP, in addition to ongoing lander development and studies, will help lay the foundation for long-term deep space exploration Partnering with American companies to do this work now allows us to leverage the knowledge and expertise of NASA to encourage technological innovations for a sustainable presence on the Moon.

NASA is preparing to conduct the program’s first-ever test flight, Artemis 1, which will use a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Artemis 1 was originally scheduled to launch on August 29, but technical problems postponed the take-off attempt several times.

Artemis: NASA wants a second lunar module for mission astronauts

NASA is in talks with specialist companies targeting new ideas for a second lunar module, which should join SpaceX’s rocket, Starship, on the Artemis mission.

The idea of ​​developing a second lunar module for its astronauts – who are expected to land on the Moon for the first time between 2025 and 2026 – emerged in March this year, aiming for “redundancy and resilience” in the Artemis programme.

The proposal was made official this Friday (16) by NASA, which is already awaiting proposals from private companies.

As Lisa Watson-Morgan, program manager of the Human Landing System Program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, USA, said in an official statement that “the work to be done from this request, in addition to the Current lander development and ongoing studies will help lay the foundation for long-term deep space exploration.

Proposals can be sent to NASA until November 15. The selected companies will have to carry out two demonstration flights to the moon, one without astronauts and the other with.

Apparently, since SpaceX already has a similar contract with NASA (manned flight tests will take place with Artemis 3), Elon Musk’s company will not be able to participate in the new round of negotiations.

In Friday’s statement, NASA officials said they plan to exercise an option under the SpaceX contract, which calls for the spacecraft design to be used on Artemis 3 to meet an “expanded set of requirements to support moon missions and perform moon missions”. . another manned demonstration landing. »

NASA calls for proposals for second Artemis lunar probe

NASA is asking private industry to come up with ideas for another astronaut to land on the moon.

The space agency is working to establish a long-term human presence on and around the moon by the end of the 1920s, through a program called Artemis. In 2021, NASA announced that it had chosen a SpaceX spacecraft as the landing craft for the program’s first manned surface mission, Artemis 3, which is expected to land near the moon’s south pole in 2025 or 2026.

In March this year, agency officials said they planned to encourage the development of a second manned Artemis lander, to provide redundancy and flexibility for the program. This plan became official today (September 16) when NASA issued a call for proposals from private companies.

“The work performed under this order, along with the ongoing development and studies of the current lander, will help lay the foundation for long-term deep space exploration,” said Lisa Watson Morgan. , manager of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Human Landing System program.

Categorized in: