NASA is planning to go to the Moon again in 2024, and they might just have the support of the Congress already. The future of steps on the Moon seems more possible now as SpaceX has launched its car to the asteroid belt. There has been only one Lunar Lander that has taken people to the Moon and brought them back to Earth but doubtable that the same design will be used again.
Lockheed has a plan for landing astronauts on the lunar surface, and they might be doing it already by 2024.
NASA’s project to send a man on the moon centers around a plan that is entirely unlike Apollo. Future astronauts will set a step on the Moon by first going through a gateway, instead of sending an order module and a lunar lander for a single trip to the Moon’s surface.
This Lunar Gateway is a space station in an eccentric orbit that looks like a highly unusual polar orbit around the Moon, with an orbital cycle of between six and eight days. This orbit is incredibly useful for many things also. The orbit allows continuous communication with Earth and can serve as a support for operations on the far side of the Moon. The Moon’s entire surface is accessible from the orbit. This last ability is crucial as there are projects to land on the South Pole of the Moon which has been reported as containing reserves of water.
However, to get to the Moon, a lander is necessary.
Numerous proposals for the next generation of the capsule to land on the Moon has been made. The biggest was a projection of the Constellation Program, namely, the Altair lunar lander. The spacecraft was a massive, three-story-tall vehicle, able to support four astronauts to the lunar surface for a week. It also had an airlock and a cargo version that would be able to put almost 15 tons of equipment, supplies and habitat modules anywhere on the Moon. This was an exceptional craft but after the Constellation program was canceled in 2010, the project died.
Lockheed Martin is currently working on an Orion-based lander concept that is appropriate to get to the Moon through a lunar gateway. The lunar part of the lander is a modest module with a big engine and spider-like legs. There are living quarters on top of it that also have an engine to return to orbit. The Lockheed lander will be two phases unlike other plans involving what is definitely a three-stage lander, but it will be able to bring a lot of mass on the Moon.
Lockheed’s lander is supposed to put the astronauts on the Moon within about five years or so, but that’s not a lot of time when we talk about the aerospace. However, NASA says it can happen by 2024.
Someday soon, maybe even sooner than we anticipate, there may be a Lunar Lander assembly production, ready to take the astronomers on the Moon.