Five steps to the moon and back: Boeing unveils design for lunar lander to transport astronauts on last leg of journey to the moon in ‘fewest steps’ possible

  • NASA plans to send a crewed mission to the lunar surface by early 2024 
  • It has been 50 years since Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon
  • Boeing is one of a number of companies bidding to build the lunar lander
  • Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin are also thought to be bidding  

Boeing has released its design for a new lunar lander that could get astronauts from orbit around the moon to the surface and back again in just five key steps.

It has been 50 years since man first stood on the surface of the moon and within the next decade humanity will return as part of NASA’s Artemis mission.

Aerospace giant Boeing is one of 11 companies hoping to win the contract to build the craft that will form the pivotal stage in putting astronauts on the surface in 2024.

The Human Lander System would head into orbit and then rendezvous with astronauts on the NASA Orion spaceship before taking the crew to the lunar surface. This artist impression shows the lander in orbit

After the Artemis mission crew have completed their exploration of the lunar surface they would lift off from the moon in the Ascent Element of the Lunar Lander, as seen in this artist concept. The Descender Element remains on the moon as it would no longer be needed

The company says its approach would enable a crewed lunar landing with only five mission critical events, instead of the 11 or more required by alternate strategies.   

Jim Chilton from Boeing said: ‘We have developed a “Fewest Steps to the Moon” approach that minimizes mission complexity, while offering the safest and most direct path to the lunar surface.’ 

The Artemis project aims to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024 and then establish sustainable missions by 2028. 

In Greek mythology Artemis was the goddess of the moon and the twin sister of Apollo. NASA says the name ‘personifies our path to the lunar surface by 2024’. 

It has been 50 years since three brave men (pictured is Buzz Aldrin) stepped on the moon – and according to NASA, our return is just around the corner. Officials at the space agency are now targeting the last half of 2024 for when humans will land near the south pole of the moon 

Blue Origin, the rocket company owned by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon is one of the other companies bidding for the lunar lander contract. 

They are competing against others including Northrop Grumman which built the original Apollo 11 lander and Elon Musk’s SpaceX. 

Artemis will see NASA’s new rocket, known as the Space Launch System (SLS), send astronauts into orbit around the moon aboard the Orion spacecraft. 

They will dock Orion at the ‘Lunar Gateway’ – a space station that NASA plans to put into orbit around the Moon by 2022 – where they will live and work. 

They will then take expeditions from the Gateway to the surface of the moon using the new lunar lander. 

Boeing says that, unlike other proposals, its lander will be able to dock directly with Orion or the Gateway, eliminating the need for additional spacecraft. 

 The Artemis project aims to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024 and then establish sustainable missions by 2028. It has involved creating a number of new technologies including this new spacesuit for use by astronauts on the surface

The target is set to give NASA more time to accomplish projects that are necessary for a successful mission. SLS and Orion (concept drawing) were expected to be ready for their first uncrewed test flight in 2024

It can also carry itself from lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon without an additional transfer stage or ‘space tug’.

NASA plans to offer initial contracts to companies for the design and development of prototype landers, worth a total of $1 billion, by December 2019, with full development contracts offered later. 

There will be two lander contracts available. One to create a lander for the 2024 mission and another for longer term sustainable landings from 2028. 

NASA’s Artemis mission includes plans for longer term sustainable lunar exploration including the creation of a Gateway station in orbit of the moon, as seen in this diagram. NASA says it will allow astronauts to study and explore the lunar surface

Boeing said its approach would provide NASA with ‘the best return on its investment’. 

It also said it would provide the simplest and most likely path to return to the lunar surface by the 2024 target.  


In total twelve people have walked on the moon.

1 + 2. Apollo 11 – July 21, 1969

Neil Armstrong made history by becoming the first person to set foot on the moon.  

Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin followed Neil Armstrong on to the surface of the moon.  His popular nickname gave itself to the animated characte Buzz Lightyear. 

3 + 4. Apollo 12 – November 19 and 20, 1969

Pete Conrad and Alan Bean were the moon walkers on the Apollo 12 mission. 

The Apollo 12 crew experienced two lightning strikes just after their Saturn V rocket launched.

5 + 6. Apollo 14 – February 5, 1971 

Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell who were part of the Apollo 14 mission. They launched on January 31, 1971, and landed in the Fra Mauro region of the moon, the original destination for Apollo 13.

7 + 8. Apollo 15 – July 31, 1971

David Scott and James Irwin landed on the moon and stayed for three days, until August 2nd. 

 9 + 10. Apollo 16 – April 21 1972

John Young and Charles Duke were the next men to walk on the moon. When the crew reached lunar orbit, the mission almost had to be aborted because of a problem with Command/Service Module’s main engine.

11 + 12. Apollo  17 – December 11, 1972

The final people to walk on the moon were Eugene (Gene) Cernan and Harrison (Jack) Schmitt. 

Before he left the moon, Cernan scratched the initials of his daughter Tracy into the lunar regolith. Since the moon does not experience weather conditions like wind or rain to erode anything away, her initials should stay there for a very long time. 

All the men who have been to the moon 


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