Why did NASA stop lunar missions

NASA wants to use Space X's lander to reach the surface of the moon

In the past few weeks, the space company Space X has mainly attracted attention in the media through exploding moon rockets. In fact, during the tests of the Starship prototypes SN8 (December 9, 2020) to SN11 (March 30, 2021), there were three crash landings and one explosion immediately after the engines ignited.

What may seem like a failure provides engineers with invaluable data. These experiments are intended to ensure that one day people will use the carrier or landing system to travel safely to the moon and perhaps also to Mars. In its full version, the 120-meter-high Starship should be able to carry up to 100 tons of payload into space.

Tender won

The US space agency Nasa seems to be convinced that Space X can handle such tasks: As Nasa manager Lisa Watson-Morgan announced, Elon Musk's space company won the tender to develop a new lander for manned lunar missions. The space company Blue Origin of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the armaments company Dynetics had also applied for the contract.

The fact that Space X finally overtook Amazon has no technical greens - the proposals were found to be "acceptable" by both companies in this regard - it was rather because Elon Musk had apparently put the cheaper offer on the table. Dynetics, on the other hand, was technically inferior.

Unusual step

The concept of Space X included a further development of the landable Starship. The Human Landing System (HLS) Starship is supposed to bring two astronauts to the lunar floor and back into lunar orbit. It is unusual that Space X was the only company to be awarded the $ 2.9 billion contract.

Normally, NASA selects several companies in order not to be left empty-handed in the event of a failure. Analysts see the breach of tradition as another sign of the space agency's confidence in Space X.

Manned lunar mission in three years

The plans are ambitious, the schedule seems more than ambitious: The NASA Artemis 1 mission is scheduled to start with a first test flight to the moon at the end of this year. Initially without a crew, she should orbit the moon and then return to earth. On the Artemis 2 mission, astronauts are expected to orbit the moon in 2023. And only as part of the Artemis 3 mission could astronauts actually land on Earth's satellite in the Starship a year later. (red, APA, April 20, 2021)