Scientists marked the 10th anniversary of the launch of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter on Tuesday, celebrating a mission that has greatly outlived its original one-year design life and continues taking high-resolution pictures to help U.S. companies and international space agencies select destinations for moon landers.
In a head-spinning tweet, President Trump blasted NASA on Friday for its plan to return to the moon, a plan set in motion during a 2017 White House ceremony he presided over, and forcefully endorsed in March on the president’s behalf by Vice President Mike Pence, chairman of the revitalized National Space Council.
Within days, NASA is expected to select a winner from a roster of nine eligible companies to try and become the first commercial entity to accomplish a soft landing on the moon with a robotic spacecraft. The privately-developed probe would be the vanguard in a series of unpiloted missions intended to deliver science instruments to the lunar surface and prepare for a human expedition as soon as 2024.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, discussed his vision for spaceflight and lunar exploration Thursday in Washington, revealing new details about a privately-developed lunar lander he said will help NASA achieve the Trump administration’s goal of returning astronauts to the surface of the moon by 2024.
A senior NASA official said Tuesday that the Space Launch System, a huge heavy-lift rocket years behind schedule, could launch astronauts on a moon landing mission in 2024 on just its third flight to meet a goal announced last month by Vice President Mike Pence, while commercial companies will be entrusted with more responsibility to develop a lunar lander and a modest mini-space station, or Gateway, in lunar orbit.