Planting Pumpkins on the Moon: A New Lunar Lander
Kyle Maxey posted on May 14, 2013 | 5558 views

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Northrop Grumman has completed a feasibility study to determine the best lander design for an upcoming manned mission to the Moon, but NASA has nothing to do with it.

Founded in 2010, the Golden Spike Company (GSC) is a Colorado-based space transportation start-up that hopes to put a human on the Moon in the near future. What sets the GSC apart from most other space start-ups is its business model, which stresses the use of existing technology.

While the company already has its eyes on previously-designed rockets, they still needed a landing craft that could bring two astronauts down to the surface and then successfully carry them back. Apparently, the old Apollo model was unacceptable – but not so unacceptable that the GSC weren’t willing to approach Northrop Grumman, the original lunar lander’s designers, to create a design and feasibility study for a new landing craft.

As a part of the study, Northrop Grumman looked at nearly two hundred possible lunar lander cases that covered each stage of the landers journey, different propellants, and a variety of engine types. From the case studied, Northrop Grumman arrived at a new lander design, which it calls the “Pumpkin”.

Like the previous Apollo lander, the Pumpkin consists of both Descent and Ascent stages. The Decent Stage is used to carefully place the lander on the lunar surface, while the Ascent Stage is used to return to orbit, leaving the Descent Stage behind.

Unlike the Apollo lander, the new Pumpkin design reimagines the role of the Ascent Stage by pairing it down to its core components. While the original Apollo lander’s Ascent Stage contained control systems and living quarters, the Pumpkin moves these to the Descent Stage, leaving the Ascent Stage as little more than a tin can tied to a rocket.

Currently, the GSC is still soliciting investors for what they believe will be an $8 billion effort to return to the moon. If all goes as planned, the company will begin flying manned missions to the moon by 2020, at a cost of $1.5 billion per trip.

Watch the Golden Spike Company’s Annoucement Video:

Image Courtesy of Northrop Grumman & Golden Spike Company

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