Aug 20, 2019

Texas and Alabama are fighting it out for the Artemis lunar lander

Miriam Kramer, author of Space

Illustration of a lander and astronauts on the moon. Photo: NASA

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Friday that the space agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama will take the lead in developing the Artemis lunar lander.

Yes, but: Lawmakers in Texas — the home of Johnson Space Center — aren't happy about it.

Why it matters: NASA wants to deliver astronauts to the surface of the moon by 2024, and the lunar lander is an integral part of that plan. Being chosen as the lead for the development of the lander system will bring money and jobs to Marshall.

Details: In a letter to Bridenstine, Texas lawmakers suggested that the agency should have chosen Johnson to play a more prominent role in the development of the lander due to its history as the heart of NASA's human spaceflight operations.

  • According to a NASA statement, Johnson will "will oversee all aspects related to preparing the landers and astronauts to work together," and the Texas center is already responsible for the Gateway and Orion, two other key elements of Artemis.

Context: These kinds of conflicts have cropped up ever since the end of the Apollo program, according to John Logsdon, the founder of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University.

  • "Since Apollo, it's been this way that there's a competition for work, because the organization is still more or less sized to do Apollo-like programs," Logsdon told Axios. "And there's not that much work."

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