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NASA’s moon lander plan stirs up a fuss

Alabama ceremony
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is dwarfed by a 149-foot-tall liquid hydrogen structural test article for the heavy-lift Space Launch System as he announces Marshall Space Flight Center’s leadership role in developing the human landing system for Artemis moon missions. (NASA Photo)

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced today that Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama will take the lead role in developing the vehicles for landing astronauts on the moon – which could be good news for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture, but definitely came as bad news for Texas lawmakers.

To be fair, Texas is getting a piece of the action in NASA’s Artemis moon program as well: NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will continue to take the lead role in human spaceflight – and in the development of the ascent module for the human landing system.

The latest step in NASA’s Artemis plan for sending astronauts to the moon within five years came during a ceremony at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., staged in front of a 149-foot-tall structural test model for NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket.

Bridenstine said the moon lander program would bring 140 jobs to Marshall and 87 jobs to Johnson, with another 136 distributed among other NASA centers. “We focus on a ‘One NASA’ integrated approach that uses the technical capabilities of many centers,” he said.

Despite Bridenstine’s reassurances, Texan members of Congress said they were disappointed by the decision, and complained that NASA officials hadn’t told them about Alabama’s elevated role until reports started appearing in news outlets such as Ars Technica.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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