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Artist's illustration of an astronaut on the moon in 2024. Photo: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin has a plan to get NASA astronauts back to the surface of the moon by 2024, the company revealed during the National Space Symposium in Colorado last week.

The bottom line: The plan would take its Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle — which the government contractor has been developing for the better part of a decade for previous space exploration plans — and direct it to the moon.

Details: The plan would require a test flight of the Orion with its European Service Module on NASA’s Space Launch System rocket in June 2020, with the first crewed test flight in late 2022.

  • Between the 2 flights, NASA would need to create what Lockheed Martin is calling the Phase 1 Gateway — a small habitation module and propulsion module in orbit around the moon that Orion would dock with.
  • In 2024, NASA would need to launch a moon lander to the Gateway, and from there a crew could launch to the Gateway and then land on the lunar surface.

Yes, but: It's not clear if NASA will take Lockheed Martin up on its proposal.

  • The agency hasn't revealed a specific plan to get back to the moon by 2024, but officials are having conversations with the private sector to determine how to accelerate their timetable.
  • NASA is looking to hedge its bets against further delays in the development of its SLS mega-rocket. As a substitute, the agency looked into using a commercial rocket, like SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, or United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy to launch the Orion.

What to watch: NASA says it will need help from commercial partners to make the 2024 landing deadline a reality.

But, but, but: If NASA wants to use Lockheed's architecture, the space agency will likely need to start funding it now.

“Landing on the Moon by 2024 is feasible, but we need to move fast, resource it right, take mission risks but not safety risks, and make smart technical and architecture trade-offs that includes leveraging existing systems to the maximum extent possible."
— Tim Cichan, Lockheed Martin's space exploration architect, to Axios

What we're hearing: Other experts have told Axios that a near-term funding ramp-up is vital to accomplishing the 2024 target, with or without Lockheed's participation. To that end, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine is preparing a new funding request to Congress for the lunar program.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries — Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca vaccine.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Supporters of former President Trump storm the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Texas man who has been charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."