Water ice may be more prevalent on the surface of the moon that previously thought, but that discovery appears unlikely to have any near-term effect on NASA’s lunar exploration plans.
NASA has awarded more than $400 million in contracts to both demonstrate technologies needed for future lunar exploration and to send an ice-drilling payload to the south pole of the moon.
The European Space Agency has awarded contracts for work on elements of its moon and Mars exploration program, ranging from modules for the lunar Gateway to a mission to return Mars samples to Earth.
The head of Russia’s space agency said that the lunar Gateway, part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program, is too “U.S.-centric” for it to participate in, even though the Gateway leverages the existing International Space Station partnership.
The chair of the House space subcommittee says NASA has still not convinced her that the agency has a viable plan to return humans to the moon by 2024.
A NASA safety committee warned that the effort to return humans to the moon by 2024, coupled with uncertain funding, could lead to “engineering compromises” in the Artemis program.
Italy is the latest country to sign an agreement to cooperate with NASA on the Artemis human lunar exploration program, although the details of Italy’s participation have yet to be worked out.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine urged Senate appropriators to provide full funding of Artemis as some members questioned the agency’s emphasis on its lunar exploration program.
NASA used the release of a report on the Artemis program to seek full funding of the effort to return humans to the moon, warning that they had six months to secure its budget to keep a 2024 landing on schedule.
The NASA directorate responsible for human spaceflight efforts has completed a long-anticipated internal reorganization intended to better align activities ranging from the International Space Station to Artemis.
The lunar lander under development by Dynetics for NASA’s Artemis program will make use of in-space refueling of cryogenic propellants and require three launches in quick succession, company officials revealed.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine suggested Sept. 14 that NASA would be open to sending the first Artemis human landing mission to a location other than the south pole of the moon.