SpaceX is bound for the moon, maar 2024 goal is now a long shot

Nasa has chosen SpaceX to supply the lander that will take astronauts to the moon as part of the agency’s Artemis programme.

Die 16 April announcement came as a surprise because the agency had originally planned to award competitive contracts to two companies. Budget constraints have been blamed for the single-contract award. Congress approved $850m (£609m) for the lander’s development in 2021, which is only about a quarter of Nasa’s request. The SpaceX contract is worth a total of $2.89bn and covers a robotic test flight to the moon’s surface, followed by the human landing.

The lander will be based on SpaceX’s Starship, which has exploded on its previous four test flights. A fifth test flight is expected to take place in the next week, following a successful “static fire” test of Starship SN15 on 26 April at SpaceX’s Boca Chica site. In a static fire test, the rocket is anchored to the ground and the engines are ignited.

The Biden administration has signalled that it will continue the Artemis programme, but the landing date may be later than first hoped. A November 2020 verslag doen from Nasa said the agency would be “hard-pressed to land astronauts on the moon by the end of 2024”.

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