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The last time humans set foot on the Moon was December 11, 1972. Explore NASA's deal with SpaceX and its owner.

Fly us to the moon: Is SpaceX’s owner building a moon lander?

The last time humans set foot on the Moon was December 11, 1972. It’s been almost fifty years since anyone has been back. Nasa announced this week that they are planning to rectify that situation stat! Nasa has partnered with SpaceX to build a new moon lander that will take humans back to the Moon within the decade. 

The project has some big goals for leveling the playing field in space exploration. Typically dominated by white men, Nasa is looking to change that with this new mission. This mission to the Moon will include both women and people of color this time around. 

SpaceX beat several other competitors for this particular contract. Here is everything we know about the new moon lander. 

The Artemis program

The Artemis program was developed under Donald Trump’s administration. It was his wish to put Americans back on the moon by 2024. The Artemis program clearly states that its goal is to take both women and people of color to the Moon for the purposes of exploring more of the Moon’s surface than ever before. 

The program ran into funding issues though, and the 2024 goal became unattainable. That doesn’t mean the project was dismantled though. Nasa is still working hard to reach these goals. However, it is just going to take a little longer than first expected. 

Nasa’s ultimate goal with this program is to further study the moon and learn as much about it as possible. The organization believes that new technologies they have developed will allow such scientific discovery to a level that was unachievable before. Eventually, the end goal is to build a habitable base for humans. 

The SpaceX partnership 

The moon lander will be based on SpaceX’s Starship craft, which has been in development for some years now and is currently undergoing testing in Texas. SpaceX beat out competitors such as Jeff Bezos (who had teamed up with traditional aerospace companies), and Dynetics, who the United States currently has a defense contract with. SpaceX ultimately won the $2.89 billion contract. 

“With this award, Nasa and our partners will complete the first crewed demonstration mission to the surface of the Moon in the 21st century as the agency takes a step forward for women’s equality and long-term deep space exploration,” said Kathy Lueders, head of human exploration.

Lueders goes on to say that this particular mission is of the utmost importance to forge a path forward in sustainable lunar exploration. 

This “keeps our eyes on missions farther into the Solar System, including Mars,” said Lueders. 

The Starship

SpaceX has been developing the Starship for a while now. It has deliberately been designed aesthetically to resemble rockets from science fiction and will now play a vital role in the Artemis program. Although SpaceX developed this craft with a long term goal of exploring Mars in mind, in the interim it will be used to move astronauts from lunar orbit to the moon’s surface. 

SpaceX describes the Starship as a “fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to orbit Earth, the Moon, Mars and beyond. It is the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed. 

This particular craft differs considerably from the Lunar Model that housed the astronauts that were part of the U.S. Apollo programme back in 1969 & 1972. It has been described as comfortably spacious. This particular vessel will be known as the Human Landing System (HLS). 

The craft is not ready, though. On March 30, SpaceX launched its fourth high altitude test of the Starship in Texas. 

According to SpaceX “shortly after the landing burn started, SN11 experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly. Teams will continue to review data and work toward our next flight test.”

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