As NASA tries to land on the Moon, it has plenty of rockets to choose from

Enlarge / If you want to buy a commercial SLS launch, you also need to rent the mobile launcher from NASA. (credit: NASA)

Last week, NASA held an “industry day” for companies hoping to win lunar lander contracts from the government as part of its Artemis program. During the teleconference, industry officials could ask questions about NASA’s plans for how best to get astronauts from an orbit around the Moon, down to the surface, and safely back.

After Vice President Mike Pence established the goal of landing humans on the Moon by 2024, NASA officials have been working overtime throughout the last six months to put together mission plans and architectures to meet this deadline. The effort culminated in the release last week of a solicitation that asks industry for designs of a human landing system.

There is a lot to digest in this document, which contains three-dozen attachments and several amendments. And industry officials must respond quickly, with a Nov. 1 deadline to return proposals. After reviewing the submissions, NASA will award two or more contracts that will allow firms to move into the final design and development of Artemis Program lunar landers. The agency would like to have two different designs move forward toward completion, believing that competition will result in faster, better hardware. But this may not be possible due to uncertain funding from Congress.

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