NASA today announced the selection of Lockheed Martin Corp. and the team of Northrop Grumman Corp. and The Boeing Co. that will lead to an award to build the agency’s Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). The selection is part of NASA’s plan to have two contractors compete in the design and production process for the Space Shuttle’s replacement.
NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration calls for the CEV to carry up to six astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit soon after the Space Shuttle is retired in 2010. It was reported yesterday that NASA is targeting a manned return to the moon will take place in 2015 at the earliest.
“I don’t have a specific date, but sometime between 2015, which is the earliest we think we can do it, and 2020, which would be the latest,” said Michael Griffin, the new administrator of NASA, when asked at the Paris Air Show about NASA plans to return to the moon.
He then added that the mission could be followed by the construction of a multinational space station there.
The CEV acquisition strategy is a multi-phased project. Phase 1 calls for industry to mature their crewed vehicle designs and demonstrate their ability to manage the cost, schedule, and risk of human-rated spacecraft development.
Phase 2, covering final CEV design and production, was scheduled to start with a down-selection to a single industry team in 2008. To reduce or eliminate the gap between the Shuttle’s retirement in 2010 and an operational CEV, the Phase 2 down-selection is planned for 2006.
Griffin, who took over the top job at the U.S.’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration in April, is hoping to fulfil U.S. President George W. Bush’s high-profile plan to return humans to the moon and possibly to land on Mars.
“We have enough money to put people back on the moon in that timeframe,” he said. “The model that I have is that we should build a lunar outpost similar to the kinds of multinational outposts we have in Antarctica.”
NASA will make decisions on what craft will be used to reach the moon in the next few months, Griffin said: “I am hoping we will have some fairly firm conclusions by the end of this summer.”
(Where Space Is What We’ve Got)