NASA aim of 2024 Moon touchdown is ‘really doable’

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SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses as he arrives on the red carpet for the Axel Springer Awards ceremony, in Berlin, on December 1, 2020.

Britta Pedersen | AFP | Getty Images

Elon Musk thinks that SpaceX can help NASA meet its goal of landing astronauts on the moon by 2024, an ambitious goal for both the space agency and company.

“I think that can be done,” Musk said on Friday, speaking after SpaceX launched the Crew-2 mission to orbit.

“We’re going to aim for sooner than that, but I think this is actually doable,” he added. “We’re building up a lot of rockets, and probably [will] smash a bunch of them, but I think it will happen.”

SpaceX won a $2.9 billion contract from NASA last week under the agency’s Human Landing Systems, or HLS, program.

Starship prototype rocket SN11 stands on the launchpad at the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas.

SpaceX

Under the contract, Musk’s company will build a variation of its Starship rocket, prototypes of which SpaceX has been testing at its development facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The company has performed multiple successful test flights of Starship to date, although landing attempts after the last four high-altitude flights ended in a variety of fiery explosions.

NASA’s Artemis program, announced by President Donald Trump’s administration and expected to continue under President Joe Biden, consists of multiple missions to the moon’s orbit and surface in the years ahead.

Musk said that “it’s a great honor to be chosen by NASA to return people to the moon,” emphasizing his company’s vision for flying regular flights to the lunar body and beyond.

“It’s been now almost half a century since humans were last on the moon. That’s too long, we need to get back there and have a permanent base on the moon — again, like a big permanently occupied base on the moon. And then build a city on Mars to become a spacefaring civilization, a multi-planet species,” Musk said. “We don’t want to be one of those single planet species, we want to be a multi-planet species”

Musk has previously estimated that it will cost about $5 billion to fully develop Starship, although SpaceX has not disclosed how much it has spent on the program to date. On Friday, Musk noted that the HLS contract win is “really helpful,” as Starship development has “mostly been funded internally thus far and it’s pretty expensive.”

“It’s a tough vehicle to build because we’re trying to crack this nut of a rapid and fully reusable rocket,” Musk said. “But the thing that’s really important to revolutionize space is a rapidly reusable rocket that’s reliable too.”

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