NASA recently announced they have selected SpaceX and its Starship vehicle to serve as the lunar lander for its Artemis program as NASA looks to return humans to the moon. This comes almost a year after NASA gave initial study and preliminary development contracts for Moon landers to SpaceX, Dynetics, and a team of aerospace heavyweights led by Blue Origin.
While SpaceX’s bid was about half that of Dynetics, it was one-fourth the amount received by Blue Origin. This frugality on the part of SpaceX among other factors led NASA to choose SpaceX as the sole provider of landing services during the down-select phase. NASA also revealed it will award SpaceX $2.89 billion for the development of the Starship vehicle and two flights. While one of these missions will be an uncrewed flight test of Starship down to the lunar surface and back, the second mission will be a crewed flight which will be the first one of the Artemis program down to the Moon.
Also, NASA officials revealed Starship offered several advantages which include a spacious cabin for astronauts, two airlocks, ample payload capability to bring large numbers of experiments to the Moon and return samples to Earth, and the vehicle’s innovative design and future-looking technology that might also one day be used on Mars. While the selection criteria were based on a company’s technical proficiency, management, and cost of which SpaceX scored well, the budget however appears to be a very crucial factor since NASA had difficulty securing funding from Congress for the lunar lander aspect of the program with the Congress providing $850 million of the $3.3 billion funding demanded by NASA to land humans on the moon by 2024.
For more information, read the original story in Arstechnica