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Bridenstine presents a two-phase approach for accelerated lunar return

COLORADO SPRINGS – NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency's approach to advancing a human lunar landing from 2028 to 2024 will focus on speed and then sustainability.

In a plenary address at the 35th Space Symposium, which was held here on April 9, Bridenstine said that the new approach being developed by the agency to address Human lunar landing goal announced by Vice President Mike Pence two weeks ago elements of NASA's original plans, but in a revised order.

"All these elements that were necessary to bring humans to the surface of the Moon in 2028, all these elements still exist. The plan is always the same, "he said. This includes, he said, the development of the space launch system and the Orion spacecraft, a lunar bridge orbiting the moon and lunar landers.

What will change, he said, is the development schedule for some of these elements, which will be split into two phases. "The first phase is speed. We want to put these shoes on the moon as quickly as possible, "he said. "We are getting rid of everything that prevents us from doing it."

This focus on speed includes the launch of Exploration Mission (EM) 1, an unmanned Orion test flight, on the first flight of the SLS in 2020, followed by the first crewed Orion mission, EM-2, as soon as possible thereafter. "

The lunar phase will also include the lunar gateway, although Bridenstine has suggested that it would begin by incorporating only a fraction of the elements previously proposed by NASA and its international partners. "The first elements of Gateway are focused exclusively on the surface of the moon," he said, referring specifically to the element of power and propulsion. NASA is currently reviewing proposals for a housing module.

NASA is also changing its approach to developing lunar lander elements. NASA launched a call for tenders in February as part of its NextSTEP program (Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships), aimed at finding concepts for a transfer vehicle and a descent module. At the time, the agency officials had announced their intention to keep studies for the elevator module of the landing gear, which would require human evaluation, within the agency.

However, on April 8, NASA announced that it would soon launch another NextSTEP solicitation for the lift module concepts. This solicitation, which will probably begin with engineering contracts but may soon result in technology development awards, is designed to "enable rapid development and in-flight demonstrations of lunar human landing gear," the agency said.

NASA has been rushing through this new solicitation of climbing modules in just seven days, said Bridenstine. "We could have recovered in four days, but I put the brakes on the ground because I wanted to make sure we were going in the right direction," he said. The three elements of the lunar landing system, he said, will be developed as public-private partnerships.

The Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, under which NASA awarded contracts to nine companies developing lunar commercial earth stations capable of carrying agency payloads, will also be taken into account. phase. "We are focusing these abilities on projects and science that can help us bring humans to the moon's surface, in the most precious places on the moon's surface, as quickly as possible," he said. he declares.

A second phase of the lunar return effort would begin after the completion of this first human landing, he said, and focus on the long-term sustainability of the exploration architecture by 2028. He gave little details on this approach, but clarified that it would take off the bridge and ensuring that key elements such as lunar landers are reusable.

"We are building capacity, we are building an architecture that will ultimately be sustainable in the long run," he said. "All this was already planned for 2028. We will simply speed up the process."

Bridenstine spoke little about the cost of this new approach, but confirmed earlier statements that the agency would submit to Congress a modified budget proposal in the near future. He suggested that NASA might ask international partners to contribute more or seek additional partners.

"We will come back to Congress with an increased budget request," he said. "If we could perhaps ask our international partners to step up a little more, that would be great as well."

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