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Recently, the US vice president directed NASA to land astronauts on the moon within the next 5 years [source].

While there are big rockets (SLS, Falcon Heavy, etc.), and crew capsules (Orion, Crew Dragon) in the works, I have not heard of any current work on a lunar lander.

Is someone working on a lunar lander, and there has been much less media hype around these efforts? Or, is the 5 year time frame simply wishful thinking? Since 5 years doesn't seem to be a sufficient time frame to develop and human-rate a lunar lander.


The timeframe for the Apollo Lunar Module was:

  • July 1962: invitation to companies to submit proposals
  • July 1969: first flight to the moon

which gives us a 7 year development time horizon. In modern days, I suspect development of space hardware to take longer than in the Apollo era, due to more rigorous testing.

So, for the 5 year goal to be realistic, there should already be development of some sort of crewed lander currently ongoing.

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  • $\begingroup$ For a manned moon landing a big rocket is something as big as a Saturn V. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Mar 27 at 12:28
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    $\begingroup$ There have been design concepts (e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_Lunar_Lander) but I don't think there is any serious work done yet. Yes, I think 5 years is too ambitious. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Mar 27 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage The Lockheed Martin Lunar Lander seems to be only a design concept unveiled in October 2018. Is there any information about some hardware build for it? $\endgroup$ – Uwe Mar 27 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe No, as I said, I don't think there is any serious work. I don't think anyone has lunar lander hardware. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Mar 27 at 12:44
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NASA has pretty much decided to use commercial landers. In November 2018 they announced 9 companies that would receive money to develop lander concepts, and with the likely addition of SpaceX these 10 companies will be competing to build lunar landers.

I'm confident that all 10 are doing some work to developing these landers, along with plans to make them larger and crew rated. However, the only two potential human rated lunar landers that I know of are being developed by SpaceX and Lockheed Martin. The Lockheed one is just on paper, and SpaceX's is a completely different way to get to the Moon, the Starship/ Super Heavy (BFR) system.

enter image description here

While Lockheed Martin unveiled this concept for a single-stage lunar lander in October, NASA officials say they're leaning towards three-stage options whose individual components are small enough to be carried on a range of launch vehicles. Credit: Lockheed Martin Source

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    $\begingroup$ The article you linked to only talks about payload, no crews. So, the 5 year goal to land humans on the moon does not seem very realistic. $\endgroup$ – Dohn Joe Mar 27 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ There are other sources I have seen for crewed landers depending on commercial vehicles. But yeah, the 5 year goal is a stretch, at least not without some serious changes... $\endgroup$ – PearsonArtPhoto Mar 27 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ To quote Randall Munroe: If we can get a man on the Moon, why can't we get a man on the Moon? $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Mar 27 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ I added the image from your 2nd link showing an "a crewed moon lander currently in the works" or at least a technical artist's impression thereof. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Mar 27 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ However, the Starship/BFR system is in its current form only viable for a lunar fly-by. So, to conclude: landing humans on the moon within 5 years is wishful thinking. $\endgroup$ – Dohn Joe Mar 28 at 9:43

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