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Elon Musk claims SpaceX could launch a Starship to the moon ‘probably sooner’ than 2024

SPaceX Moon MissionSpaceX CEO Elon Musk says he may be able to launch the company’s massive new Starship to the moon for NASA “probably sooner” than the space agency’s 2024 target even in the face of contract and other delays.

Starship was selected as NASA’s lander of choice for the Artemis human landing system (HLS) in April, but two situations held up the contract in the months since.

First there were protests by competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics, in part expressing concern about NASA’s decision to select one provider instead of two (the companies cited lesser budgetary funds available for HLS as a probable cause). After the Government Accountability Office confirmed NASA’s choice of SpaceX in a detailed decision published earlier this month, Blue Origin filed a lawsuit. This means that the work is again paused on HLS until at least November.

NASA administrator Bill Nelson told on Monday (Aug. 23) that he anticipates “further delay” to the agency’s plans for Artemis, which since 2019 (before Nelson’s tenure) has targeted a 2024 moon-landing.

Musk, who is known for his optimistic timelines, made the the earlier-than-2024 comment on Twitter in response to a question from the Everything Artemis unofficial Twitter account, asking if he could make the 2024 deadline. Musk’s response: “Probably sooner.”

The account also cited an Aug. 14 report from CNBC space reporter Michael Sheetz that SpaceX received $300 million from NASA on July 30, after the GAO denied the protests to its competitors.
Earlier this month, the Office of the Inspector General cited a 20-month delay to Artemis lunar surface spacesuit development that, according to the office, made a 2024 moon-landing “not feasible.” And SpaceX has its own development timeline to consider, too. Starship is a prototype that has not yet flown an orbital mission. While SpaceX wanted to get that done in July and the system has been stacked on the pad once already as part of a test, the company has been awaiting the outcome of a program environmental assessment from the Federal Aviation Administration. A typical timeline on that is months, according to media reports.

Other considerations for the 2024 deadline include Congressional funding for HLS, which has so far not been to the agency’s requests; the launch of the untested Space Launch System moon rocket that could be in late 2021; and the ongoing pandemic and spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, which could induce fresh U.S. slowdowns in the coming weeks.

So, can SpaceX go to the moon? Can the SpaceX starship reach the moon? (Starship to the moon)

China Launches Change 5 Mission to Moon to Return Lunar Samples

China successfully launched its Chang’e-5 lunar mission Tuesday to collect rocks from the moon — the first attempt by any country since the 1970s.

The unmanned Chang’e-5 probe, named after the mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, blasted off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan, near the country’s southern tip, in the early morning.
After liftoff, the spacecraft separated from its boosters and protective fairing, and went into Earth-moon transfer orbit. Live-streamed footage from the launch shows the Chinese teams and engineers applauding in the control room when the boosters fell away from each side of the rocket, and again when the spacecraft separated from the rocket in orbit.
Once in the moon’s orbit, the probe will deploy a pair of vehicles to the surface to drill into the ground and collect soil and rock samples. If successful, the mission will make China only the third country to have retrieved lunar samples, following the United States and the Soviet Union decades ago.
Change5 Lunar sample return missionThe Chang’e-5 probe will attempt to collect 2 kilograms (4.5 pounds) of samples in a previously unvisited area of the moon — a massive lava plain known as Oceanus Procellarum, or “Ocean of Storms.” According to NASA, this large dark spot, stretching about 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) wide, could be a scar from a giant cosmic impact that created an ancient sea of magma.
These samples could help scientists understand more about the moon’s origins and foundations — and set the foundation for more complex sample retrieval missions in the future, potentially on other planets.