Artemis Lunar Lander Gets Design Change in Preparation for 2024

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The Team Working on Artemis Scramble to Make Pence’s Deadline.

NASA updated its plans for the Artemis lunar lander last week in anticipation of the now four-years-shorter mission target.  The lander, which is really designed to be more of a shuttle, is officially called the Human Landing System. In the grand scheme of the Artemis program, the Human Landing System will ferry astronauts from Gateway to the lunar surface and back. 

Artist rendering of the Artemis Lunar Lander

Artist rendering of the Artemis Lunar Lander

NASA released the new plans on August 30th. The document outlines some new requirements for the initial versions of the lander. However, it still maintains the basic idea of NASA buying “services” from private companies, instead of the landers themselves. It also retains the plan to build simpler versions of the craft for mission in 2024, while ultimately aiming for a more permanent Human Landing System by 2026.

The Reason for the Changes?

The changes came at the requests of industry leaders. NASA officials released the initial draft, then considered over 800 comments from their potential suppliers. One of the biggest changes was to the number of actual deliverables NASA will require. Nantel Suzuki, a NASA program official, said, “We heard a lot of feedback about the administrative burden and schedule impact that it might impose, potentially providing significant schedule risk for 2024.” 

Vice President Mike Pence announced threatened this spring that heads would roll if NASA didn’t put a human (specifically, a woman—begrudging credit where credit is due) on the Moon by 2024. The original timeline for Artemis was slated for 2028. Unfortunately, when you cut four years off of the timeline for a project as large as Artemis, drastic measures must be taken. One only hopes that the decline in deliverables NASA asks for won’t affect astronaut safety. On the other hand, it is encouraging that NASA leadership is listening to the needs of their contractors. Still, cutting corners is rarely if ever a good thing. 

A better outcome, of course, would be that the pressure will drive innovation that results in even better technology. We’ll see how it pans out. Sometimes pressure cooks things perfectly

…and sometimes it makes things blow up. Observe:

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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