E.t is another great success for Space X: The American space agency Nasa has chosen the Elon Musk-led company as a partner to bring American astronauts to the moon again for the first time since 1972. Space X is to develop the lander for the mission, the contract is endowed with 2.9 billion dollars.
Musk, who is also CEO of the electric car manufacturer Tesla in addition to Space X, won the race for two of the most prominent American multi-billionaires who have become rivals in space travel: In addition to Space X, Blue Origin, Jeff’s space company, had also applied for the contract Bezos, who founded the Internet company Amazon. Musk and Bezos are currently the two richest people in the world on the Forbes list.
First to the ISS
Musk celebrated his success on Twitter and wrote: “NASA Rules !!” With the order, Space X will once again play a central role in a prestigious project in American space travel. The company only helped the United States return to manned space travel last year when it carried astronauts to the ISS with its “Falcon 9” rocket and its “Dragon” space capsule. It has now completed two such flights, the third is scheduled for next Thursday. Previously, America has not been able to launch astronauts into space since 2011, when the space shuttle program ended.
It was much longer ago that Americans were last on the moon. This happened as part of the famous Apollo missions, for the first time in July 1969 and for the last time in December 1972. A total of twelve American astronauts set foot on Earth’s satellite as part of these missions.
The new lunar project, in which Space X will now be involved, is called “Artemis” – named after the moon goddess and twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology. Under former President Donald Trump, the United States sought to make it back to the moon by 2024 under this program. Trump’s successor Joe Biden apparently wants to stick to the program, but the government is considering changes to the schedule, so the return to the moon could be postponed. When the order for Space X was announced on Friday, no target date was given.
The award for Space X comes around a year after NASA made a preselection in the race. At the time, she awarded contracts worth a total of just under a billion dollars to Space X, Blue Origin and the less publicly known company Dynetics to work on concepts for lander. Blue Origin was awarded the largest sum at the time, Space X the smallest.
It was actually expected that NASA would select two companies from these three finalists, similar to what it did for the return to manned space program. Space X and Boeing received orders separately from each other, but there have been some setbacks on the Boeing side, and it is still unclear when the company will be ready to bring astronauts to the ISS.
According to a report by the Washington Post, the fact that NASA now only selects one partner has to do with cost reasons; Space X has apparently made the lowest offer. But it is also a tremendous vote of confidence and underlines that Space X has established itself as a partner of NASA.
“It’s time to go back to the moon”
For Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin, however, the outcome of the race is a bitter disappointment. The Apollo missions to the moon have always fascinated Bezos. He described it as a “seminal moment” in his life when, at the age of five, he and his parents and grandparents watched on television as Neil Armstrong became the first person to step on the moon. His passion went so far that some time ago he had parts of the Saturn V rocket, with which Armstrong and the other Apollo 11 astronauts began their journey, recovered from the Atlantic.
About two years ago, Bezos unveiled a model of a lunar module that he said could help the American government with their lunar project. “It’s time to go back to the moon, and this time to stay,” he said at the time. Blue Origin had applied for the Artemis contract as the leader of a “national team” with other American companies such as Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
Space X plans to use a variant of its “Starship” rocket for the mission to the moon, which is currently being developed. The company has already done some tests with prototypes of the missile in Texas, but apparently has a lot of work to do. During the tests, the prototypes took off successfully and made flight maneuvers, but then crash landed.
In the Artemis mission, the Space X vehicle is only to be used in the final phase. Initially, four astronauts are to be brought into lunar orbit with the Space Launch System rocket system and the Orion spacecraft; the Space X lander is to be sent into space separately.
After reaching the lunar orbit, two of the four astronauts will then transfer to the lander and be taken to the moon, where they are to stay for a week. Nasa plans to include a woman among the two astronauts who set foot on the moon – by the way, she would then be the first woman on the moon.
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