WASHINGTON (dpa-AFX) - NASA has selected 11 U.S. companies to develop prototypes of human landers to take American astronauts - the first woman and next man - on the Moon's south pole by 2024.
'Our team is excited to get back to the Moon quickly as possible, and our public/private partnerships to study human landing systems are an important step in that process,' said Marshall Smith, director for human lunar exploration programs at NASA Headquarters.
The selected companies will study and/or develop prototypes during the next six months that reduce schedule risk for the descent, transfer, and refueling elements of a potential human landing system.
NASA's proposed plan is to transport astronauts in a human landing system that includes a transfer element for the journey from the lunar Gateway to low-lunar orbit, a descent element to carry them to the surface, and an ascent element to return them to the Gateway.
The US space agency also is looking at refueling capabilities to make these systems reusable.
The total award amount for all companies is $45.5 million.
The selected companies are Aerojet Rocketdyne, Blue Origin, Boeing, Dynetics, Lockheed Martin, Masten Space Systems, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, OrbitBeyond, Sierra Nevada Corporation, SpaceX, and SSL.
NASA's program to return American astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024 is named after Artemis, goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology. No human has ever stepped foot on the Moon's South Pole.
The Trump administration had originally scheduled first manned Moon flight since the last Apollo mission in 1972 for 2028. But US Vice-President Mike Pence announced in March that Americans would land back on the moon by 2024, four years earlier than planned.
The Artemis lunar exploration program also aims to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028 to uncover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advancements, and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.
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