NASA Requests to Send More Humans to the Moon With Major Proposal

by Amy Myers

As of September 16, NASA has requested proposals for a second lunar lander with the Artemis program under development by SpaceX. The new ship will join the Starship lander.

The news of the proposal request comes nearly six months after NASA announced plans for the Sustaining Lunar Development (SLD) project, which hopes to provide competition with SpaceX for the “sustainable” phase of the Artemis program. Companies have until Nov. 15 to submit their proposals for the second lander. NASA expects to have a decision by May 2023.

The awarded company will be responsible for developing a lander that will support future missions following Artemis 3. As of right now, the first crewed Artemis landing will happen with SpaceX in 2025 at the earliest. This means that the winning company of the latest call for proposals will develop a lander for a crewed voyage following an uncrewed voyage by Artemis 5 mission, roughly in the late 2020s.

‘I Promised Competition’ Says NASA Admin

The recent call for proposals is an effort to fuel NASA’s future exploration voyages and their advancements. The “solicitation” will help “build the foundation for long-term deep space exploration,” according to Lisa Watson-Morgan, manager of the Human Landing System (HLS) program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, adding that the current lander development and studies taking place will also supply critical building blocks for the effort as well.

Initially, in March, NASA introduced the SLD program to Congress in order to fulfill its commitment to include competition in the HLS program.

“I promised competition, so here it is,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said during the announcement in March.

Winning Company Will Have to Demonstrate Lander Can Meet Requirements of Crew-Led Mission

In order to receive the award from NASA, the prospective companies will have to present plans for a lander that meet the needs of the Polar Sortie Mission. This means that the ship must be able to carry two astronauts to the moon’s surface and also withstand 6.25 days on the surface. The lander must also allow for four planned and one contingency moonwalk.

The original HLS competition concluded in April 2021. Along with SpaceX, the winner of the proposal call, companies like Blue Origin and Dynetics also applied. It is not known whether these two companies will be bidding in the current call. However, Blue Origin does have an “Artemis Lander” placeholder page on its website.

Likewise, officials at Lockheed and Northrop have not yet committed to their decision regarding companies to work with. According to Robert Lightfoot, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space, they are currently exploring their options.

“We’re looking at SLD. Obviously, it’s an opportunity for us,” Lightfoot said in August.