Boeing submits proposal to NASA for 2024 moon mission

Earlier this week Boeing submitted its proposal for a Human Lander System to take astronauts to the Moon in 2024. In September NASA solicited proposals for a Human Landing System for the upcoming Artemis mission, but had only received one proposal prior to Boeing.
An artist's impression of the HLS Ascent Element
NASA has submitted its proposal for the Artemis mission Human Landing System. Photo: Boeing

American aerospace giant Boeing has submitted its proposal for NASA’s Artemis space exploration programme which is due to take humans back to the Moon in 2024.

The mission, which was requested by President Trump back in December 2017, will be the first to land a woman on the Moon and the first to land a man on the Moon since 1972.

According to reports by Gizmodo, the Artemis programme had only received one other proposal before Boeing.

This was a combined pitch from Jeff Bezos’s private aerospace project, Blue Origin, as well as aerospace companies Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper.

What is NASA hoping to achieve?

Humans haven’t set foot on the Moon since the Apollo missions of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Technology has now progressed to the extent that analysis of the Moon’s surface can be carried out by unmanned robots or orbiters.

While there’s not much more we can learn about the moon that can’t be done by robots, the appeal of landing astronauts remains as tantalizing as ever. What’s more, we’ve never landed a woman on the Moon.

What has Boeing proposed?

Boeing’s Human Lander System was conceived with a ‘Fewest Steps to the Moon’ approach in mind.

Rather than using multiple lander stages, Boeing has combined both the ascent and descent elements as one.

This approach will allow Boeing to reduce the complexity of the Human Lander System, as well as the associated safety risks.

Apollo was the NASA program that resulted in American astronauts' making a total of 11 spaceflights and walking on the moon.
No astronaut has touched the surface of the Moon since the 1970s. Photo: NASA on The Commons

Jim Chilton, Boeing Defense, Space & Security’s senior vice president, said:

“Using the lift capability of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Block 1B, we have developed a ‘Fewest Steps to the Moon’ approach that minimizes mission complexity, while offering the safest and most direct path to the lunar surface.”

Boeing says that its Human Lander System includes a number of innovations, such as automated control systems, composite materials and new engine technologies.

NASA’s Space Launch System

While NASA is accepting proposals for the Human Lander System, it already has its own system ready to launch the lander.

The Space Launch System is also being developed by Boeing. This gives Boeing a clear advantage when it comes to securing the contract for the Human Lander System.

According to NASA, the Space Launch System will be most powerful rocket it has ever launched. In fact, it is the most powerful rocket on the market today.

Boeing's proposed HLS
The Artemis mission is scheduled for 2024. Photo: Boeing

A NASA spokesperson told Gizmodo that SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy “has a much smaller lifting capacity than SLS Block 1B.”

Unfortunately, the Space Launch System is behind its original launch schedule. It was intended to be ready for a first launch in 2020, which will now likely not happen until 2021.

SpaceX is reportedly working on its own Human Launch System proposal, but we’ll have to wait a little longer to see what they have planned.

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