Artemis, NASA’s mission to send men on the Moon again in 2024, is being restructured. Doug Loverro, the agency’s new chief of human spaceflight that arrived late last year, changed the old strategy, and Boeing, the company responsible for the construction of the aircraft, is overwhelmed.
There was also a leak at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center this week. A document titled “Moon 2024 Mission Manifest” seemed to reveal NASA’s plans on Artemis. The report stated that NASA’s intended to launch ten Artemis missions between 2012 and 2030. Un-crewed missions, crewed missions, cargo missions, and science missions. But the press secretary of NASA, Matthew Rydin, denied that this was NASA’s plan.
“We are currently in a blackout period because multiple companies have proposed human lunar lander solutions,” was Matthew Rydin’s declaration of NASA’s current state on Artemis.
The former plan, before the arrival of Loverro, was to use commercial rockets to get components of a human lander at the Lunar Gateway and pre-position them there. After the components were there, the astronauts would also fly to the Gateway, and form there two, a man and a woman, would descend to the lunar surface.
NASA to reform its Artemis Program
Loverro didn’t agree with the plan. He wants the Orion spacecraft, with the crew on board, to dock to the lander without the Gateway. That means the launch of an entire lunar lander on an upgraded version of the SLS rocket is needed.
This plan gives Boeing the chills. Boeing is responsible for building the rocket’s core stage, and the Exploration Upper Stage by August 2024. They were already overwhelmed. Now, they have to build four SLS cores instead of three before.
Boeing has already postponed for four years the mission in 2016. Not to mention the failure from December 2019, when Boeing’s Starliner crew spacecraft couldn’t fly up to the International Space Station, due to several significant software issues.
NASA’s inspector general has characterized Boeing’s execution on the SLS program as “poor.” It looks like private rockets, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Dynetics, may be called upon to launch the components to the Moon’s surface. Or, they might propose integrated landers to be launched on the SLS booster.