NASA chooses companies to design part of its Artemis lunar lander

Here’s a reality check on NASA’s Artemis Moon landing program

Enlarge / Artist’s concept of a lunar lander. (credit: NASA)

On Tuesday morning, NASA conducted what appears to have been a highly successful test of the launch escape system for its Orion capsule—a piece of the hardware needed to safely fly humans to the Moon. This test, in concert with the looming 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing mission, is likely to raise public interest in NASA’s new lunar landing program over the next month.

A little more than three months have passed since Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to move up its plans to land humans on the Moon from 2028 to 2024, and a lot has happened. Here, then, is a reality check on the state of the 2024 Moon landing program—now named “Artemis,” after the twin sister of Apollo. This report is based on interviews with multiple sources inside and outside NASA.

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NASA looking at “hard decisions” within its budget to pay for Artemis plan

NASA looking at “hard decisions” within its budget to pay for Artemis plan

Enlarge / NASA Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate William Gerstenmaier is looking for “efficiencies” in the agency’s budget. (credit: NASA)

Over the last two months, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has repeatedly said the agency’s ambitious new Artemis plan for sending humans to the Moon in 2024 will not require raiding other areas of its budget, such as its broad array of science programs, technology research, or aeronautics work.

The reason, he said, is simple. The surest way to torpedo support for a program inside the agency is to take funding from someone else to pay for the new plan, and the surest way to lose support in Congress is to take work away from various field centers around the country.

“We can’t cannibalize one part of the agency to feed another part of the agency,” Bridenstine told Ars in April, which reflects comments he has

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