NASA plans to put astronauts back on the moon in 2028.
Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, told space industry representatives on February 14, “This time, when we go to the moon, we’re actually going to stay.”
He continued, “So, we’re not going back to the moon to leave flags and footprints and then not go back for another 50 years. We’re going to go sustainably. To stay. With landers and robots and rovers — and humans.”
NASA announced their plan to partner with commercial ventures to proposes ideas and concepts for the moon exploration mission. Details about this venture were outlined in the Broad Agency Announcement, which calls for the commercial space companies to propose concepts on a descent module, a space
NASA will make its selection in May 2019, to begin an initial six-month study and development phase. After this time, the two companies who have progressed most will be selected to build hardware for demonstration missions. Each company could earn a maximum of $9 million in the first phase and the two chosen companies could be looking at a payday upwards of $100 million.
William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations commented, “We’re going to need the best and brightest from you in industry. We’re going to need the best and brightest from the international partner community to pull all this off.”
NASA’s renewed vigour for moon exploration stems from Space Policy Directive 1, an order signed by President Donald Trump in December 2018 directing NASA to return astronauts to the moon in a sustainable way.
The first demonstration mission is set for 2024, which will involve launching an unmanned descent vehicle landing test from NASA’s planned Gateway, an orbital space station close to the moon. The Gateway is still to be built but will act as a stop-off point for astronauts en route to the moon.
In 2026, the second mission is scheduled and will involve a full-up unmanned lunar landing test, practising leaving the moons surface and returning to the Gateway space station.
In 2028 NASA is set to send astronauts to the moon for the first time in over fifty years. The transfer vehicle and ascent module will be refuellable and reusable and will allow for four astronauts to stay on the lunar surface from a duration of seven days at a time.
NASA assured reporters that theses would not be once off visits and their plan includes surface infrastructure that could include human settlements and fuel production, utilizing the moon’s reserves of ice. If successful, the missions could serve as a model for exploring other locations, such as Mars.