Bill Shepherd, a former Navy SEAL-turned astronaut who arrived at the International Space Station 20 years ago Monday to begin the continuous occupancy of the orbiting research outpost, says the experience gained by NASA and its global partners over the last two decades provides a blueprint for missions to the moon, Mars, and beyond.
NASA officials released a nearly five-year, $28 billion plan Monday to return astronauts to the surface of the moon before the end of 2024, but the agency’s administrator said the “aggressive” timeline set by the Trump administration last year hinges on Congress approving $3.2 billion in the next few months to kick-start development of new human-rated lunar landers.
NASA has signed a $187 million contract with Northrop Grumman to complete the preliminary design of a pressurized crew habitat for the planned Gateway mini-space station near the moon, and agency officials have discussed new details about plans to launch first two Gateway modules on a single heavy-lift rocket.
Aiming to reduce risk and costs, NASA has decided to launch the first two modules of the Gateway station in lunar orbit on the same heavy-lift rocket in 2023, rather than fly them on separate rockets and dock them together in deep space, according to the the agency’s chief human spaceflight manager.
The next time astronauts land on the moon, they will ride to the lunar surface in a spacecraft that looks a lot different than the Apollo-era landing module last used in 1972. Lander concepts proposed by SpaceX, Blue Origin and Dynetics — which won a combined $967 million in NASA funding Thursday — take wildly different approaches to carrying crews to the moon.