If everything goes according to plan, SpaceX’s Starship will set down astronauts on the moon in 2025 and 2027.
NASA and SpaceX have scheduled a second crewed mission to the lunar surface.
NASA’s Artemis moon exploration programme will use SpaceX’s next-generation Starship rocket as its first crewed lunar lander, the agency revealed in April 2021. If everything goes as planned, Starship will land astronauts on the Artemis 3 mission in 2025 close to the lunar south pole.
To increase redundancy and resilience for the moon programme, NASA put out a request for bids in September of this year from additional businesses who wish to supply crewed landers for Artemis.
Although SpaceX was not permitted to participate in this other round of bidding, agency representatives declared at the time that they intended to use an option in the company’s current contract to select the winner of future landed missions.
The Artemis 4 mission, scheduled to launch in 2027, will use Starship to transport astronauts to the lunar surface. NASA formally invoked this “Option B” on Tuesday (Nov. 15).
The Human Landing System programme manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Lisa Watson-Morgan, said in a statement(opens in new tab) on Tuesday that “continuing our collaborative efforts with SpaceX through Option B furthers our resilient plans for regular crewed transportation to the lunar surface and establishing a long-term human presence under Artemis.”
She went on to say that “this important effort will help us concentrate on the construction of sustainable, service-based lunar landers anchored to NASA’s objectives for repeatedly returning missions to the lunar surface.”
Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, was pleased with the news. Much appreciated; SpaceX won’t fail NASA. The new owner of Twitter, a billionaire businessman, tweeted on Tuesday (opens in new tab).
Although SpaceX is preparing for the program’s first-ever orbital test flight, which might launch by the end of the year, Starship is still in development and could soon take a significant step forward.
Even more progress will be made for the Artemis programme soon: The NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida will carry out the early Wednesday, November 16, morning launch of the Artemis 1 mission. If all goes as planned, liftoff will take place during a two-hour window that begins at 1:04 a.m. EST (0604 GMT). On Space.com, you can see it live.
A Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will be used by Artemis 1 to launch an unmanned Orion spacecraft on a 26-day voyage to lunar orbit and return. It will be Orion’s second flight and the SLS’s first as well. Orion was launched into Earth orbit by a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket in 2014.
If everything goes according to plan with Artemis 1, Artemis 2 will orbit the moon in 2024 with a crewed Orion. The next mission, Artemis 3, will make the first crewed lunar landing since the last Apollo mission in 1972 using Starship.
NASA wants the SpaceX vehicle to carry out an uncrewed test touchdown before bringing astronauts to the lunar surface, thus Artemis 3 will actually be Starship’s second moon landing.