NASA is bending metal to build spacecraft for the Moon. Previously in Johnson Space Center Building 220 we saw a mockup Moonbase under construction. Today we have an exclusive look at a mockup of the Altair lander being built. Here is the airlock module and small model of the completed Altair.
The ascent and airlock modules are posed with a Spacesuit for scale. The designers chose to minimize the size of the ascent module. 4 people will have to spend a week in that little thing! For scientists, the weight of lunar samples that can be returned will be limited. We hope to include modern miniaturised microscopes so that the astronauts can choose which rocks are valuable enough to return. Altair is designed to return 100 kg of samples, but designer John Gruner said at the Lunar Planetary Science Conference that it can be raised to 250 kg.
The completed Altair will be big, nearly 4 stories tall. These platforms will allow engineers to rapidly stack the modules for different configurations. They are still not sure how payloads will be lowered to the surface. Altair will be the last Constellation spacecraft to be built, so the design is subject to change. If all goes well, 10 years from now people will again walk on the Moon.