American space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) sealed a deal of $2.7 billion with Lockheed Martin to build three Orion spacecraft that will allow the first woman and next man to reach Moon by 2024. Each space capsule, for Artemis mission III to V, can carry four astronauts. In a statement, NASA said that agency plans to order three additional Orion spacecraft at a total of $1.9 billion in the fiscal year 2022 for Artemis missions VI through VIII. NASA stated optimization of production and lower costs as the reason behind the ordering of spacecraft in groups.
“This contract secures Orion production through the next decade, demonstrating NASA’s commitment to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon to bring back new knowledge and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Orion is a highly-capable, state-of-the-art spacecraft, designed specifically for deep space missions with astronauts, and an integral part of NASA’s infrastructure for Artemis missions and future exploration of the solar system,” he added.
The spacecraft production will focus on reusability and building a sustainable presence on the lunar surface for its moon mission. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, where Johnson Space Center is located, said he was pleased that Bridenstine heeded his calls and is taking significant steps to ensure Johnson continues to grow. "More needs to be done, and I look forward to production ramping up in the weeks and months to come and to more opportunities with NASA,” said Senator Cruz.
The Artemis program of NASA is the next step towards human space exploration and a part of the broader Moon to Mars exploration approach. Under the program, NASA is working to land the first woman and next man on the Moon. NASA has also given people the opportunity to send their names on Mars aboard its Mars rover 2020 mission. They handed out artificial boarding passes to the people who registered their names for it.