NASA unveils $28 billion plan to return to the moon by 2024

Blue moon

NASA is working on the Artemis project which will send the next man and first woman to the moon in 2024. Dennis Nett

Three teams are now developing competing designs for the Human Landing System, or HLS: SpaceX, which holds an initial $135 million NASA contract; Dynetics, now funded at $253 million; and a "national team", funded at $579 million, that includes Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper.

Lisa Watson-Morgan of NASA's Human Landing System programme said: "NASA has a proven track record for landing people and cargo on other planetary surfaces".

This will come after a "hot fire test" is conducted on NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), and the Orion spacecraft. Orion is simply awaiting a few more critical tests, including a hot fire test this autumn before its ready to go.

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While preparing for and carrying out these flight test missions, NASA already will be back on the Moon robotically - using commercial delivery services to send dozens of new science investigations and technology demonstrations to the Moon twice per year beginning in 2021. "We have to remember during the Apollo era, we thought the moon was bone dry". SLS funding, Orion funding, Human Landing System, of course, spacesuits - are included.

The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration is planning a mission to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024.

"It's really simple. If Congress doesn't fund the moon landing program, then it won't be achieved (in 2024), I mean it's really that simple", Bridenstine said. In this visualization, an Orion crew capsule is on final approach. "So what I would tell you is if they keep delaying the funding, we will go to the moon at the earliest possible opportunity".

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In January, Congressman Kendra Horn, D-Okla., proposed a bill to urge NASA to consider a 2028 deadline for putting us astronauts back on the moon in order to boost the space agency's long-term plans for crewed Mars exploration. However, NASA is yet to decide about phase three and phase four gateways. Phase 2 is focused on establishing a sustainable presence on the lunar surface by the end of the decade.

After launching on SLS, astronauts will travel about 240,000 miles to lunar orbit aboard Orion, at which point they will directly board one of the new commercial human landing systems. NASA will integrate the first two components to launch - the power and propulsion element and the habitation and logistics outpost - in 2023. Other modules may be added later. The tests will be useful for when Artemis III needs to undock in the lunar orbit. But use of Gateway is not required for the first moon landing, and the landers are being created to dock directly with Orion capsules if desired.

However, meeting the deadline set by US President Donald Trump administrator, Jim Bridenstine, depends a lot on receiving approval from Congress, as they have to approve financing of $3.2 billion quickly for the development of human-rated lunar landers, according to a report in Spaceflight Now on Monday.

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Artemis-3 will become the first mission to send astronauts to the lunar surface since Apollo 17 some 48 years ago.

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