The European Space Agency (ESA) late last week announced that it has awarded Airbus a contract to build three more service modules for NASA’s Orion capsule.
This new contract supplements the existing contract that already has Airbus building three service modules. With six service modules in the pipeline, the ESA is signaling that it is very confident the Artemis program will continue.
The key question remains: Will it continue with SLS as the rocket of choice? Right now there simply aren’t the funds to build six SLS rockets. Congress has only funded two. Moreover, the pace of construction for SLS means that, if funded, it will likely take a decade at least for it to launch these six capsule/service modules. Since SpaceX’s Starship/Super Heavy will likely be operational in about half that time, and will also be capable of much more for far less, I suspect that if these additional Orion capsules get launched, they will do so on something other than SLS.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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