Boeing Enters The Race to the Moon!

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As the 2024 Artemis Deadline Looms, Boeing Pitched Its Idea for a Lunar Lander on Tuesday.

I have to admit some biases here before we start. First, I’m a proud Washingtonian, and Boeing is headquartered here. Naturally, I want them to do well because they are a huge contributor to my state’s economy. Second, I’m very conflicted because the proverbial ink isn’t even dry on the last piece I typed out. In that last piece, I scolded Congress. Specifically, I scolded Senator Shelby of Alabama. I said that puts his state’s interests ahead of national progress by insisting on the continued development of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The SLS will cost four times what a commercial rocket system would cost to launch. And that cost is astronomical if you’ll pardon the pun—over $2 billion per launch to be more precise. So it doesn’t have a lot of merit to it, particularly regarding the sustainability of any mission attached to it. Why the conflict? Well, Boeing’s plan for a lunar lander requires the SLS. Or at least part of it.

What’s the Plan?

Tuesday, Boeing proposed their plans for a crewed lunar lander to NASA. Those plans call for a lunar landing system that offers the fewest possible steps to get to the moon. And given that the Trump administration cut NASA’s deadline for the Artemis Moon landing by four years in April, that’s a very attractive selling point.

According to Jim Chilton, senior vice president of the Space and Launch division of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, “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.” Chilton relayed this in a statement.

A critical component of the Artemis mission is the Gateway station, a space station that will orbit the moon. From there, NASA hopes to ferry astronauts and cargo to and from the lunar surface using a variety of methods. Most of those methods require a tug-like vehicle to move the lunar landers to and from Gateway. Boeing’s approach wouldn’t need that tug.

“Boeing’s integrated lander also can carry itself from lunar orbit to the surface without an additional transfer stage or ‘space tug,’ further reducing launches and simplifying the steps to a successful landing,” the statement said. “It can dock with the Gateway lunar orbiter or directly with NASA’s Orion to eliminate the need for an additional spacecraft, both on time to meet the 2024 mandate.”

So the SLS may be useful for Artemis if Boeing uses it, but it’s still an extremely costly option in order to meet a deadline that many have called politically motivated and nothing more.

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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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