NASA's Constellation lunar lander project office is now recruiting the team that will design the vehicle, rumoured to be called Artemis, that will place US astronauts back on the Moon by 2020. The lander is to be launched atop the Ares V cargo launch vehicle to dock with the Ares I-launched Orion crew exploration vehicle in low Earth orbit.
Previously, different NASA departments have looked at lunar lander designs, including the Johnson Space Center's habitability design centre, which has studied interior ergonomics for astronauts preparing for lunar surface activity (Flight International, 20-26 February). The new lunar lander project office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas is recruiting personnel from across the agency, says NASA.
In a February presentation, project office lead vehicle engineer John Connolly described the lander as able to deliver 20,000kg (44,000lb) of cargo autonomously, or four crew for a seven-day mission, anywhere on the Moon's surface with the capability to return to Earth at any time.
According to Connolly internal NASA concepts have focused on a minimally sized ascent stage for crew return a staged descent flight profile and the ability to connect discarded descent stages together to build up a lunar outpost.
The lander has to deliver four crew members anywhere on the Moon