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posted by janrinok on Monday August 23 2021, @12:57PM   Printer-friendly
from the might-is-a-very-big-word dept.

SpaceX Now Claims They Might Return Humans to the Moon Even Before 2024

SpaceX Now Claims They Might Return Humans to The Moon Even Before 2024:

It's no secret that a new Space Race has been brewing over the past few years. This time, rather than being a competition between two federal space agencies, the race has more competitors and is more complicated.

In addition to more state competitors, there are also commercial space entities vying for positions and lucrative contracts. Add to that a network of public-private partnerships, and you have Space Race 2.0!

In particular, there has been quite the stir ever since NASA awarded the Artemis contract for the Human Landing System (HLS) to SpaceX. This resulted in legal challenges filed by Blue Origin and Dynetics (SpaceX's competitors), as well as a lawsuit and messy public relations campaign.

NASA has since removed the stop-work order and commenced payments to SpaceX, which recently indicated their HLS concept could be ready to go before the 2024 deadline.

As part of the NextSTEP – 2 Appendix H program, NASA selected SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Dynetics to develop the HLS that will take the Artemis III astronauts back to the lunar surface. Initially, NASA hoped to award contracts to two of these companies but ultimately went with SpaceX due to budget constraints and timetables.

In response, Blue Origin and Dynetics filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

SpaceX Thinks It Can Send Humans to the Moon Sooner Than 2024 - Universe Today

SpaceX Thinks it can Send Humans to the Moon Sooner Than 2024 - Universe Today adds:

The SpaceX HLS concept is a modified version of the Starship, which is currently undergoing rapid development (along with the Super Heavy booster) at SpaceX's launch facility near Boca Chica. According to the latest mockup (shown above) and previous statements by Musk, the HLS Starship will have a higher payload capacity since it will not require heat shields, flaps, and large gas thruster packs (all of which are needed for atmospheric reentry).

It also comes with wider landing legs, which future Starships may do away with entirely now that SpaceX is building the "Mechazilla" launch tower. In any case, concerns about potential delays and fulfilling the 2024 deadline go beyond the four months lost due to the GAO's stop order. In addition, there are reported issues with the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Units (xEMU) spacesuits, leading to fears that they won't be ready in time.


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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by DannyB on Monday August 23 2021, @01:46PM (10 children)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday August 23 2021, @01:46PM (#1169853) Journal

    According to this [arstechnica.com] on Friday morning:

    Blue Origin escalates feud with NASA. The company filed suit in the US Court of Federal Claims on Friday and received a protective order to seal the documents on Monday. The lawsuit concerns a NASA contract award for a Human Landing System and follows a decision in late July by the US Government Accountability Office that rejected a protest by Blue Origin and Dynetics over NASA's $2.9 billion award to SpaceX to further development of its Starship program. On Thursday, as a result of the lawsuit, NASA said it had agreed to a "stay" on work on the Human Landing System contract until November 1.

    So to summarize:

    • Blue Origin got the trial documents under a seal. The seal is not fed very many fish.
    • The seal is necessary for Blue Origin to do this deed under cover of darkness to avoid further embarrassment about their lack of ability to get it up (to orbit).
    • SpaceX work on HLS is halted. Because the Tortoise (Blue Origin) is way behind the Hare (SpaceX) and may never ketchup. (Using Jeff Bezos own characterization of Blue/SpaceX as the Tortoise and the Hare)

    It would be amazing if SpaceX could merely send humans around the moon and back to Earth (Apollo 8 style), on their own dime. Now how would that make SpaceX look as a candidate contractor for Lunar HLS?

    --
    Trump is a poor man's idea of a rich man, a weak man's idea of a strong man, and a stupid man's idea of a smart man.
    • (Score: 4, Informative) by takyon on Monday August 23 2021, @01:58PM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Monday August 23 2021, @01:58PM (#1169857) Journal

      Blue Origin lawsuit forces SpaceX, NASA to stop joint work on Starship Moon lander [teslarati.com]

      On its own, the announcement is already fairly bizarre. For unknown reasons, Blue Origin apparently agreed to “an expedited litigation schedule” in return for NASA voluntarily pausing work on SpaceX’s HLS contract. It’s unclear why any plaintiff that believes it has a strong case would allow an artificial limit to be placed on the amount of time available for litigation, but that’s exactly what Blue Origin has agreed to.

      Per that “expedited schedule,” NASA’s voluntary work halt will end on November 1st after several scheduled rounds of motions and cross-motions from Blue Origin, SpaceX, and the space agency. It’s unclear when a ruling might be expected but the schedule published seems to imply that it would come sometime before NASA and SpaceX resume work.

      It’s now increasingly likely that being forced to spend more than five months without the ability to seriously work or collaborate with SpaceX on its HLS contract will significantly delay NASA’s necessary contributions and thus humanity’s return to the Moon. Thankfully, as was the case with the initial 95-day delay caused by contract protests, no part of Blue Origin’s lawsuit will prevent SpaceX itself from continuing to develop Starship, though it almost certainly hampers the company’s ability to mature its Starship Moon lander design.

      SpaceX Starship factory breaks ground on an even bigger ‘high bay’ [teslarati.com]

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by mhajicek on Monday August 23 2021, @02:04PM (1 child)

      by mhajicek (51) on Monday August 23 2021, @02:04PM (#1169863)

      SpaceX isn't slowing down their Starship work at all, and that needs to be developed before the lunar variant. I'm hoping they can put boots on Luna before SLS and Orion can.

      --
      The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @02:33PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @02:33PM (#1169877)

        Next, Bezos will send Chinese prostitute spies to the FAA.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Monday August 23 2021, @06:45PM (2 children)

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday August 23 2021, @06:45PM (#1169963) Journal

      It would be amazing if SpaceX could merely send humans around the moon and back to Earth (Apollo 8 style), on their own dime.

      That thought has occurred to me. It would be like Musk to do a little showboating. And, it would be pretty awesome if Musk rode that ship, and gloated over the other wannabe space traveling billionaires from lunar orbit. Even more awesome if he spent a week in lunar orbit, taking high resolution videos of all the past lunar landing sites.

      Huh - the list of impact and/or landing sites is longer than I thought. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_missions_to_the_Moon [wikipedia.org] It might take two weeks to get a good video inventory!

      --
      We've finally beat Medicare! - Houseplant in Chief
      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @10:14PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @10:14PM (#1170032)

        Musk doesn't need to ride his rockets to showboat. Just putting one on the stand is enough to attract all the attention he could ever want. In any case he is far too busy working on his next big project to have time for a week's vacation.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @05:41PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @05:41PM (#1170429)

          His next big project? Trolling and writing puff pieces aobut himself?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @07:44PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @07:44PM (#1169991)

      What does 'halted' mean?
      Perhaps that NASA can't help with folks or money?

      Seems that both could persue independent things they are interested in until the lawyers sort out how Blue should fit into the picture (or not).

      Hopefully, the contract that X agreed to is not too much of a diversion and just augments what they wanted to do anyway.
      I'd like to think that NASA brings useful lessons to the table aside from cash. Hopefully that part still can work.

      Definitely not a nice move by the management at Blue. I don't see how to get to the moon with lawyers. Enginners seem more useful for the task.
      (Unless the lawyers are who they wish to send first? ;-)

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @10:37PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @10:37PM (#1170042)

        It means that NASA aren't allowed to talk to SpaceX about HLS, do any related paperwork, or make any more milestone payments*. It might also mean that SpaceX aren't allowed to spend the $300M they've been paid so far. Bezos will probably try to argue that it also means that SpaceX have to stop all work on Starship, but that isn't something NASA could agree to even if they wanted to.

        *The Nov 1 date is important because that is when NASA's next budget cycle starts and the HLS funds for this year are pretty much already spent.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @10:05PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @10:05PM (#1170029)

      It would be amazing if SpaceX could merely send humans around the moon and back to Earth

      DearMoon [wikipedia.org] is scheduled for 2023.

    • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Monday August 23 2021, @11:48PM

      by Immerman (3985) on Monday August 23 2021, @11:48PM (#1170066)

      As others have said, most of the orbital Starship work needs to be done before it makes sense to work on the changes for a lunar version, and there's much work still to do.

      Also, there's not actually any *need* for a specialized lunar version - a normal Mars/interplanetary version with landing legs could get people to the moon's surface and back just fine. The Lunar Starship is only necessary to reduce the risk of blasting lunar debris into orbit with the engine backwash, and to meet whatever other mission requirements NASA has.

      Finally, since going around the moon would likely still require orbital refueling, the only essential difference between going around the moon, and landing on it (in a non-Lunar Starship) is the number of refueling flights, and the need for the landing legs that have currently been scrapped from the initial orbital Starship design in favor of being caught out of the air by Mechzilla.

      Of course, there's also risk to consider - they probably want to fly a lot of orbital flights before their first human passengers, to make sure they've got all the bugs worked out. And they probably want to perform a lot of landings before they land their person on the moon for the same reason. But most of those landings can probably be on Earth, where the conditions are much harsher. With just the last one or two being on the moon to see if they encounter any unexpected problems.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @02:21PM (21 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @02:21PM (#1169870)

    Sorry to get in the way of all the hows, but... why?

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @02:23PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @02:23PM (#1169874)

      We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @05:44PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @05:44PM (#1170431)

        Can't you factor a really prime instead? You know, something that might be useful to somebody somewhere.

    • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Monday August 23 2021, @02:52PM

      by PiMuNu (3823) on Monday August 23 2021, @02:52PM (#1169881)

      SpaceX has demonstrated that economics of space are changing. They are likely to change further. Better to own that change.

      It probably isn't a good idea strategically for the US to let US's competitors and potential adversaries own an entire (military, economic eventually social) theatre.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by khallow on Monday August 23 2021, @03:27PM (3 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday August 23 2021, @03:27PM (#1169886) Journal
      Why not?

      A lot of people want to go to the Moon. That answers the why.

      If we look at the why nots instead, we see answers like "too expensive", "nobody would really want to live in a can", and "protecting the Moon's environment from the despoiling humans". That's a combination of obsolete answers and fluff. Why not answers tend to be pretty lame IMHO.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @04:42PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @04:42PM (#1169905)

        Wait, those answers are obsolete, but "because it's there" is not?

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday August 23 2021, @06:14PM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday August 23 2021, @06:14PM (#1169941) Journal

          Wait, those answers are obsolete, but "because it's there" is not?

          Has the Moon moved elsewhere? No. So "because it's there" still applies.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @05:46PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @05:46PM (#1170435)

        I've got a Why Not that you missed.

        Because not all of us want to pay for your favorite Star Trek porn fantasy. Now legalize my favorite plant products and I might be open to talk about this whole "exploration" and "betterment of man" idea.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by DannyB on Monday August 23 2021, @04:23PM (3 children)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday August 23 2021, @04:23PM (#1169899) Journal

      Because China and India might beat America to putting people on the moon! Maybe even Russia might beat us!

      That's why.

      It's about to turn in to a wild west gold rush. Steak your claim to the moon's resources before it's all fenced off.

      Once mining begins, McDonalds, spaceports, and brothels will follow. And nice Stake houses to eat at.

      --
      Trump is a poor man's idea of a rich man, a weak man's idea of a strong man, and a stupid man's idea of a smart man.
      • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Monday August 23 2021, @06:48PM (1 child)

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday August 23 2021, @06:48PM (#1169965) Journal

        Steak your claim? Stake houses? That wasn't unintentional at all!

        --
        We've finally beat Medicare! - Houseplant in Chief
        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday August 23 2021, @07:43PM

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday August 23 2021, @07:43PM (#1169989) Journal

          Miss. Steak agrees with you.

          --
          Trump is a poor man's idea of a rich man, a weak man's idea of a strong man, and a stupid man's idea of a smart man.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @05:49PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @05:49PM (#1170437)

        > wild west gold pile of old rocks rush

        FTFY

    • (Score: 2) by crafoo on Monday August 23 2021, @05:50PM (1 child)

      by crafoo (6639) on Monday August 23 2021, @05:50PM (#1169927)

      A better question would be why is 70% of the national budget devoted to feeding parasites in exchange for votes? You get more of the behaviors you reward.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @05:51PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @05:51PM (#1170442)

        You reward? That's not your money, friend.

    • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Monday August 23 2021, @06:58PM

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday August 23 2021, @06:58PM (#1169971) Journal

      I don't know - why build a sand spit out into the ocean, and build multi-million dollar mansions on that spit? Why spend thousands of dollars on a vacation to a country whose name you can't even pronounce properly? People do a lot of silly things.

      Going to the moon, and beyond, is one of those things I can get behind.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YH3c1QZzRK4 [youtube.com]

      “As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.”

      ― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick or, the Whale

      --
      We've finally beat Medicare! - Houseplant in Chief
    • (Score: 3, Funny) by ElizabethGreene on Monday August 23 2021, @07:17PM (1 child)

      by ElizabethGreene (6748) Subscriber Badge on Monday August 23 2021, @07:17PM (#1169979) Journal

      Why?

      Commercialization of space is required to drive space colonization forward. Colonization of space will allow us to turn Earth into a giant hunting preserve. This would please me. That is sufficient. :)

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @05:53PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @05:53PM (#1170443)

        Why wait, Elizabeth? Just arm up and choose your prey.

    • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday August 24 2021, @12:31AM (4 children)

      by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday August 24 2021, @12:31AM (#1170079)

      Why do it at all?
      Because if humanity doesn't expand into space eventually we go extinct and everything we are and have accomplished will cease to exist. At the very latest when our star expands into a red giant in a billion or two years, but probably much sooner due to plague, asteroid impact, or other major environmental upheaval. Mass extinctions happen fairly frequently on Earth, and the apex dominant tend to suffer the worst of it.

      Why now?
      Why not? There's no time like the present, and the Moon offers a wonderful stepping stone into the rest of the solar system. Essentially it's a stupidly large asteroid already caught in Earth's orbit. Poor in materials that would be valuable on Earth, but a good proving ground for developing much of the technology to mine much richer asteroids further afield. And the entire surface is rich in industrially valuable oxygen, silicon, aluminum, and iron, as well as apparently having substantial deposits of water ice in more selective locations. All potentially accessible with relatively crude technology that could scale out rapidly with a minimal mass of resources from Earth. And whoever gets a foothold there first will likely enjoy a prolonged period of disproportionate reward - just as Britain and Spain captured the lion's share of the early wealth extracted from the Americas.

      Why else?
      Because several of our geopolitical competitors are on broadly the same trajectory, and the Moon is the ultimate high ground. A unilateral industrial presence on the moon would give that country a huge strategic and tactical advantage both in expanding their control into the rest of the solar system, and in conflict on Earth. The same railgun or other extremely efficient way to launch lunar resources into orbit would also allow for cheaply bombarding Earth with rocks that would impact with the energy of a nuclear bomb, with none of the radioactive fallout. Add a dinky little rocket and guidance package to fine-tune the trajectory, and perhaps even some atmospheric guidance, and you could strike with as much precision as you wished. Or just rely on the threat of "nuclear" carpet-bombing anyone who objects to your actions. An unlimited, fallout-free "nuclear" arsenal would be a powerful strategic asset.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @05:55PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @05:55PM (#1170445)

        The Universe isn't interested in preserving your meat sack. It is stuck on Earth forever. Try going in the other direction.

        • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday August 25 2021, @04:11AM

          by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday August 25 2021, @04:11AM (#1170661)

          Of course it isn't. Which is why if we want our species to survive *we* have to be the ones to do the work. In theory we should be able to thrive almost anywhere that has energy and the raw elements needed to build hardware and ecosystems. In practice it's likely to take a long time before such life is remotely as comfortable as on Earth. But there's mysteries to solve and money to be made to drive the uncomfortable early stages of development.

          We should certainly also be taking better care of Earth, there is no gem remotely comparable to the world we are designed to fit. But so long as that's the only place we live, we *will* die. There is no other direction to go. If we survive everything else, we all die when the Earth is completely vaporized in the expanding atmosphere of the sun.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26 2021, @11:42PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26 2021, @11:42PM (#1171288)
        Genetic drift means that no matter what, homo sapiens will eventually cease to exist. What comes after will eventually be as incompatible with us as we are to Lucy from a couple million years ago.
        • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Friday August 27 2021, @02:19PM

          by Immerman (3985) on Friday August 27 2021, @02:19PM (#1171426)

          Of course. But Lucy was still "us", as will be whatever we become a million years from now. A species is a flowing river that splits and sometimes merges. Some branches end, others thrive and spawn new branches. But so long as we stay on Earth, *all* our branches will end. If we want to keep ours from ending, we must eventually leave Earth. And there are no guarantees as to how long we will have that option. Eventually civilization will collapse, it always does, and without convenient fossil fuels there's no guarantee we'll ever be able to get back to where we are now.

          In fact, one of the advantages establishing an independent offworld colony is to provide a repository of civilization separate enough that it's unlikely to be brought down by the same collapse, which would be capable of jump-starting civilization on Earth. You need a minimum level of technology to be able to build solar panels, large wind turbines, and other such non-fossil sources of energy, and reaching that level without plentiful fossil fuels to sustain growth may well be impossible.

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Opportunist on Monday August 23 2021, @03:28PM

    by Opportunist (5545) on Monday August 23 2021, @03:28PM (#1169887)

    (hopeful glimmer in his eyes): "All of them?"

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @06:19PM (7 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @06:19PM (#1169944)

    To fall behind spaceX

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @10:01PM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @10:01PM (#1170027)

      To sit down at a table expecting the rules to be old-space/cost-plus/close-enough-for-govt when X was making new rules.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @11:01PM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @11:01PM (#1170050)

        SpaceX didn't make the new rules but they certainly benefited from them. What they have done is upended the economics of space launch through a series of very risky moves that nobody else was willing. Blue Origin could have been that change, they have the money to make it happen, but lack the will to even try.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @02:13AM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @02:13AM (#1170114)

          If X didn't make the new rules, who did?

          (Perhaps NASA gets some credit for creating the commercial space arena, but who besides X made the arena interesting?)

          • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @09:28AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @09:28AM (#1170230)

            I'd say congress, by not providing the funding needed for the traditional way to keep working..

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @10:53PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23 2021, @10:53PM (#1170047)

      The problem with Blue Origin is that Jeff Bezos has little tolerance for perceived failure but unlimited patience for actual failure from inaction, to the point of firing good managers and replacing them with do-nothing yes men. This has left the company paralyzed and ineffective despite an effectively unlimited budget. To make matters worse he is intensely jealous of Elon Musk's success but doesn't seem to understand how that success came to be, so he is now lashing out in anger because of it.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @05:57PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24 2021, @05:57PM (#1170446)

        I thought workplace positivity was supposed to be a good thing???

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25 2021, @10:03PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25 2021, @10:03PM (#1170996)

        You seem about right. The perceived aversion to risk from Blue Origin is in line with what you describe. SpaceX is not risk averse to meet the goal, but they do understand that the final Starship needs to be safe. Work-in-progress versions do not need to be safe, but they need to be educational. Blue Origin, complete opposite approach.

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