Huntsville's Dynetics looking forward to future lunar lander project

WAAY 31 spoke to a space leader in Huntsville that's built previous landers.

Posted: Aug 14, 2019 5:36 PM
Updated: Aug 14, 2019 6:50 PM

The lunar lander could eventually help NASA set up a colony on the moon, and the margin for error is slim.

WAAY 31 spoke to a space leader in Huntsville that's built previous landers. The lunar lander for the Artemis project will transport astronauts from the space station called the Lunar Gateway to the surface of the moon.

One employee for Dynetics says it's a challenging project he wants to be a part of.

"It's a different mission than any other mission we've had. It is more challenging, probably more at stake, more opportunities to fail," said Andy Crocker, the director of strategy for space at Dynetics.

He's worked on three lander projects while at the missile defense company, but says this one for NASA's Artemis mission is different.

"This may be the third time, and this one is certainly very serious. The nation is committed. The administration is committed," Crocker said.

NASA's Artemis mission is tasked with landing humans back on the moon by 2024. The end goal is to ultimately get to Mars. The Marshall Space Flight Center was designated the leader of the lunar lander element of the project. 

Dynetics is familiar with landers. The company worked on a robotic prototype lander in 2013. It was part of NASA's Mighty Eagle program, as it tested technologies and software of a lander that can explore space. The lander was small and never held any astronauts.

The Artemis lander will not only be bigger and hold astronauts, but it will need to make multiple trips to and from the Lunar Gateway.

"Heavy, heavy payloads to orbit, and getting them all the way to lunar orbit to surface, but then you have to bring those humans back safely. It's a real struggle and it kind of fights against what physics wants to give you," Crocker said.

Dynetics is one of 11 companies that received contracts from NASA to study different elements for the lunar lander. Specifically, the company is tasked with studying the descent stage.

Crocker says no matter the stage, there isn't room for error, because a life could be on the line.

"If you lose a robot, even if it's a billion-dollar robot, you move on with your day. If you lose a crew, it's a whole different situation and we never want to do that. We put ourselves in position not to do that," he said.

Crocker says many private companies want to be involved in the lunar lander project. Dynetics is waiting to hear if it will be involved in the next phase by the end of the year.

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