HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Friday that Marshall Space Flight Center will lead the human landing system for the Artemis program.
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) August 16, 2019
"I will say that this is not a decision that was made lightly," Bridenstine said. "A lot of hard work has been done here in Huntsville over, really, well over 10 years now regarding landing systems."
The lander will need to be able to get down to the surface of the moon and back to a gateway station. Bridenstine said Huntsville was chosen for the lander program because propulsion is a big part of the lander system.
"I would argue that when it comes to propulsion there is no place in the world that is more experienced and better than Marshall Space Flight Center," he said.
The program will be managed by Lisa Watson-Morgan, a north Alabama native Bridenstine called one of NASA's best engineers.
"Imagine this: We are landing the next man and the first woman," Bridenstine said. "The program that will be managed here in northern Alabama is going to land the first woman on the south pole of the moon, and that landing system is being managed ... by one of NASA's best engineers, right here, and she just so happens to be a woman. What a great story for NASA."
Bridenstine was joined by a contingent of lawmakers, including U.S. Reps. Mo Brooks and Robert Aderholt from Alabama and Scott DesJarlais from Tennessee.
Prior to Friday's announcement, members of Congress from Texas, including Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, expressed concern that Marshall would be chosen over Johnson Space Center to develop the landing system.
Bridenstine said he understood the concerns of the Texas lawmakers, but NASA has changed over the years, and the work that needs to be done today will take more than one of NASA's centers. Johnson Space Center will actually have 87 positions that will work on the program, where Marshall will have 140. A total of 363 people will work on the project, he said.
"This is going to require the absolute best minds from all across NASA and all across industry," Bridenstine said.