NASA last week quietly delayed its plan to award two high-profile manned lunar landing contracts, pushing the finish line back two months back to a critical program under the Trump administration’s accelerated schedule of getting astronauts on the moon in 2024. With short funding from Congress And a new administration focused on the most pressing national issues, and this move was to be expected.
Elon Musk SpaceX, a team of space giants led by Jeff Bezos Blue Origin, and Dynamics owned by Lydos She won a total of $ 967 million In initial funding from NASA last year to develop competing concepts for a human moon landing system. It’s the space agency’s first attempt to spend money on astronauts on the moon since the Apollo program in the 1970s.
Last Wednesday, NASA told the three contractors that an extension of their development contracts «will be required», with a new award date chosen for April 30th. According to the Trump administration timetable, the agency had planned to select two of the three bidders in late February, giving the seal of approval for two systems that would take humans to the moon.
The delay was almost certain: the spending bill passed by Congress in December would give NASA $ 850 million for the Human Landing System program, far less than the $ 3.2 billion it needs to adhere to the 2024 schedule. But NASA has remained committed to the award date in February, and likewise, Moon launch 2024. Delays were also expected as the Biden team stopped issuing any space policy and focused more on climate change and curbing the epidemic, keeping the long-term fate of NASA’s Artemis program uncertain.
Now, NASA says the delay is designed to give it more time to evaluate bidders’ bids and «maintain the ability to move smoothly» from the development stage, but added that it may not need the full extension period and can award landing contracts previously. NASA said the extension gives companies more time to design and develop their landing gear systems.
SpaceX’s lunar lander space for NASA is the Starship, a completely reusable 16-story vehicle that the company has been launching and landing on short suborbital test flights — called «hops» — in Boca Chica, Texas. The company’s share of development funds was $ 135 million.
Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin won the biggest prize, $ 579 million, for developing the Blue Moon Lander. The company announcedNational team“In 2019 it consists of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper to work on the project. Dynetics secured $ 253 million for its landing craft and entered into a partnership with the Sierra Nevada Corp.
The Biden administration still has to choose a NASA administrator or release any space policy targets, but it is expected to slow the Artemis program to the moon by 2024 — a date widely seen as unrealistic. This month, management Advertise Her team at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, lead geneticist Eric Lander to be Biden’s first science advisor.
NASA President Jim Bridenstein He left the office on the day of the inauguration After service since 2018 and launch of Artemis software. He handed over agency management to No. 2, Steve Gorshik as an acting official.