NASA, as part of the Artemis program, recently awarded contracts to three teams to "Study" how they will fulfill NASA's request for a Human Landing System (HLS). The HLS is to be a reusable lunar lander that shuttles astronauts between the surface of the moon and the Lunar Gateway officially known as the Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway (LOP-G), Basically it's a moon ISS. NASA's long term plan is to use the SLS rocket to first build the Lunar Gateway in orbit around the moon. Once built, using SLS they will launch an Orion capsule containing the astronauts who will transfer to the Lunar Gateway where the HLS will be docked and they will use that to shuttle back and forth to the Moon. The Orion will be their ride home. When Trump decreed that he wanted Americans on the moon by 2014 NASA realized they could not build the Lunar Gateway fast enough. So instead the immediate plan is that gateway will be skipped for now and the HLS will just dock directly with an Orion Capsule in orbit. In the future the HLS should be able to dock with Lunar Gateway. So let's introduce are three contenders. There are really only a few requirements that have to be met. Be reusable and dock with the Orion/LOPG. NASA awarded almost $1B to the three: Blue Origin $579M Dynetics $273M SpaceX $135M The award amounts supposedly don't show any favoritism but are based on what each team bid. Let's first look at some pics. Blue Origin Dynetics SpaceX First lets note that Boeing didn't even make it past the first round of consideration. Yea! for the taxpayers. Blue Origin: So who is Blue Origin and why did they get so much money? Blue Origin is Jeff Bezos. His big dream is space tourism to which the first step is launching a New Shepard tourist capsule aboard his New Glenn rocket. It doesn't even go to orbit. It just barely cracks the edge of space. The New Glenn lands self propulsive and the New Shepard lands under chutes. Childs play in this day and age. And yet Bezos has yet to accomplish it. Honestly why they got a contract I don't know. So lets look at their system. It consists of a lander ( Lockheed Martin), a crew capsule (Blue Origin), and a "Transfer Element" (Northrop Grumman). You can see the lander and crew capsule in the picture. The transfer element is a rocket that gets the whole thing down to just above the surface of the moon. A forth partner, Draper, is responsible for the Avionics. Here's where it gets mind boggling. The Lander and the Transfer Element are thrown away. So much for reuse, The crew capsule returns to orbit where it would have to be mated with a new lander and transfer rocket. And it gets better. It will take 2-3 launches to get everything to lunar orbit. So even though there is a reusable crew compartment you still need 1-2 more launches to get the rest of it up. If Blue Origin wins the follow up then something is seriously wrong. Dynetics: Is a consortium of partners led by Sierra Nevada who builds the Dream Chaser ( a mini shuttle). You should check it out. Dream Chaser has contracts to deliver cargo to the space station and hopefully one day humans. What you see in the picture is what you get. The whole thing is reusable and requires only one launch*. Also note that the ladder to the surface is much shorter than Blue Origins. And it's a more stable base. The only down side is that it does use two drop tanks for descent. The tanks are small enough that they could conceivable be sent along in an Orion capsule trunk. However one way or another it does require a launch to go back the the moon. SpaceX. Ah SpaceX. Always doing things there own way. So as you can see the SpaceX "Moon"Ship is a repurposed Starship that doesn't need the heavy heatshielding and fins because it's only operating in the moons atmosphere. And it's huge. It can deliver many more tons of cargo. It is essentially an 18-wheeler to the moon. It features an elevator to get crew and cargo to the surface. It also doesn't require a transfer of crew in lunar orbit. Unlike the other systems you can launch crew from earth aboard the ship. So crew and tons of equipment, just what is needed to build a moon base. But it's not without it's challenges. First because it's tall it needs a very flat surface to land. Also they can't use the main engines to land because it would kick up too much regolith. SpaceX will solve that issue by using thrusters near the top of the ship. (the three oblong spots on the side). That is a technology they will have to develop. Also, like all Starships it requires refueling in low earth orbit. This is another technology that SpaceX needs to prove but it is a long overdue technology. But once the Moonship is operating to/from orbit/moon it is 100% reusable. Really, Dynetics has the best solution. Everything launches at once on an existing rocket. But for the future SpaceX is perfect for building a moon base with it's ability to bring muy cargo to the serface.