NASA selected SpaceX to develop a lunar-optimized Starship Human Landing System (HLS) to land astronauts on the Moon as part of the Artemis program that aims to build a permanent base on our closest celestial neighbor. Humanity has not set foot on the Moon in half a century. SpaceX is working to develop the two-stage Starship vehicle that consists of a Super Heavy rocket booster that propels the spacecraft to orbit. This week some NASA Artemis Team members, including astronauts and agency representatives, visited the SpaceX Starbase facility at Boca Chica Beach, Texas, to check-out the company’s progress. "NASA recently visited SpaceX for a firsthand look at a prototype of the human lander that will ferry NASA Artemis astronauts to the lunar surface during Artemis III. This demonstration will lay the foundation for a long-term human presence at the Moon later this decade," the agency announced via Twitter on December 21st.
.@NASA recently visited @SpaceX for a firsthand look at a prototype of the human lander that will ferry @NASAArtemis astronauts to the lunar surface during #Artemis III. This demonstration will lay the foundation for a long-term human presence at the Moon later this decade. pic.twitter.com/Ps8xZjq02j— NASA Artemis (@NASAArtemis) December 21, 2021
On the same day, Canadian Space Agency astronaut and pilot Joshua Kutryk shared an aerial photograph of the Starbase launch site, pictured below. "Flying in the skies above Boca Chica this morning with NASA Astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, dreaming of a future when ships full of humans may leave from this beach for Mars. (Look closely and you can see a Starship)," he wrote in a Tweet. Moghbeli, is one of the female Artemis program astronauts that could make history when she lands on the Moon aboard the Starship spacecraft. NASA selected 18 astronauts to visit the moon, it is unknown how many will be assigned to actually set foot on its surface during the first crewed Artemis III spaceflight planned for the year 2025. Starship is capable of carrying up to 100 passengers inside its pressurized cabin. NASA has not made public how many astronauts out of the 18 will land on the moon or remain in lunar orbit to monitor the landing, all that is known is that the agency plans to land the first woman and person of color on the lunar surface. NASA Astronaut Victor Glover, who flew aboard SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station, is also an Artemis astronaut. He visited the Starbase rocket factory as well. "Starship launch hardware stands tall at SpaceX while NASA HLS experts, Randy Bresnik and Victor Glover take a firsthand look. A Starship will land NASA Artemis astronauts on the Moon during Artemis III after NASA Space Launch System and NASA Orion deliver the crew to lunar orbit," the agency captioned another photograph.
Starship launch hardware stands tall at @SpaceX while NASA HLS experts, @AstroKomrade, and @AstroVicGlover take a firsthand look. A Starship will land @NASAArtemis astronauts on the Moon during #Artemis III after @NASA_SLS and @NASA_Orion deliver the crew to lunar orbit. pic.twitter.com/FdOYAmCkOQ— NASA Marshall (@NASA_Marshall) December 22, 2021
Nine women and nine men were selected to usher in the next era in space exploration. They all come from a variety of ethnicities and education, pictured below. The nine women are: Kayla Barron, Jessica Watkins, Christina H. Koch, Stephanie Wilson, Anne McClain, Nicole A. Mann, Jessica Meir, Jasmin Moghbeli, and Kate Rubins. The nine men are: Raja Chari, Victor Glover, Kjell Lindgren, Joseph Acaba, Mathew Dominick, Warren Hoburg, Jonny Kim, Frank Rubio, and Scott Tingle. Most of these astronauts have experience on spaceflights to the International Space Station (ISS) and/or have a U.S. military background. To learn details about each astronaut visit: Artemis Team
SpaceX still has a lot of work to do to have a space-ready Starship. The Artemis Team members visited as SpaceX continues testing the vehicle. The new year (2022) will be crucial in terms of the rocket-ship's development. The company aims to test dozens of Starship prototypes before launching cargo and crew to orbit in 2023. Right now, SpaceX engineers are conducting pre-flight tests of the Super Heavy rocket prototype, Booster 4, that will conduct the first orbital flight test attempt early next year. Booster 4 underwent a couple of proof tests this week. On December 17, the stainless-steel vehicle was filled with cryogenic liquid nitrogen during a pressurization test performed to assess the vehicle’s structural integrity. Most recently, on December 22, they conducted another proof test to ensure the propellant tanks do not have any leaks and can withstand the high pressure it would experience during the upcoming orbital flight test, pictured below. After SpaceX completes assessing the vehicle's overall structure, engineers will conduct a static-fire test of the 29 methane-fueled Raptor engines. For the first orbital flight attempt, Booster 4 will propel the six-engine Starship SN20 test vehicle to orbit and attempt an ocean landing in the Gulf of Mexico, while SN20 continues a flight across Earth to reenter the atmosphere and land in the ocean off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii.
Featured Image Source: NASA
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.