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NASA issues fast-track plan for lunar landers

Lunar lander takeoff
An artist’s conception shows a lunar lander’s ascent module blasting off from the moon. (NASA Illustration)

After two preliminary rounds, NASA today published its final call for industry proposals to have the first two landers capable of putting astronauts on the moon ready for 2024 and 2025.

NASA’s broad agency announcement, known as NextSTEP-2 Appendix H, makes clear that two different companies would be chosen to build human-capable landers. One of them would be used for the Artemis 3 mission, which aims to send two astronauts to and from the lunar surface in 2024. The other would be used for a demonstration mission in 2025.

Those two missions would set the stage for putting an upgraded lander on the moon in 2026 to demonstrate a “sustainable” approach to lunar exploration. That follow-up demonstration mission would serve as a “precursor to procuring lunar landing services as commercial services beginning in 2028,” NASA said.

And here’s the kicker: The proposals for the first two landers are due in a month.

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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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