SpaceX Director Nick Cummings says that the company could potentially attempt multiple uncrewed Starship lunar landings before the first attempt at landing NASA astronauts on the Moon.I have to admit I hadn't heard that name before (Nick Cummings), however he has been with the company since January of '19 as Director of Advanced Development for Civil Space. I'll use that American Astronautical Society link instead of LinkedIn!
In April 2020, NASA announced the first commercial contract recipients under its new Human Landing System (HLS) program, awarding almost $1 billion in an uneven split between Dynetics, Blue Origin’s “National Team”, and SpaceX. While an undeniable boon for Dynetics, SpaceX’s inclusion arguably came as the biggest surprise, marking NASA’s first serious investment in Starship – the company’s next-generation, fully-reusable launch vehicle.
All that aside, note that the linked paragraph above said multiple uncrewed (i.e. robotic) lunar landings. SpaceX is not taking the opportunity to compete with NASA by sending people to land on the moon; that's probably unwise. Still, maybe it's because I've been an incurable space nut since the earliest days, but seeing a Starship land on the moon under autonomous control, maybe collect a sample or something and come back to earth would be unspeakably cool.
In testing their vehicle operationally and getting it to land on the moon and return, that would be an obvious challenge to the other HLS competitors. Marcia Smith (@SpcPlcyOnline) put out two Tweets, saying.
"SpX's Nick Cummings shows nice aerial view of Boca Chica. And one of SN8 on pad getting ready to fly to 15 km with 3 Raptor engines. SN9 and 10 in production. 50 Raptors built now, prod rate will increase.SpaceX has a well-publicized plan to send a space tourist on a lunar orbital mission by 2023. The tourist is Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa who is planning to take a small crew of artists with him. I'm excluding that mission since it won't land on the moon.
First orbital flight next yr; booster in construction now. "
"Wright (Dynetics) and Cummings (SpX) say they also plan uncrewed demo flt to lunar surface (Blue said earlier they will in '23). Wright says late '23/early '24. Cummings doesn't give dates, but will have many Starship flts to orbit and maybe more than 1 uncrewed lunar landing."
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said that he's hoping to have several contractors for manned flight, which I have to assume includes going to the moon. It's possible that all three of the HLS demo systems will be accepted, two, or only one. I suppose at some point, the companies will have to make their hardware compatible or come up with ways for NASA to use the different pieces if there's more than one supplier.
Mary, @bocachicagal, caught a shot of the painted nose cone in Texas and Teslarati paired it with this concept rendering of the Starship on the moon. I'm all but 100% sure the one on the right shows the NASA meatball logo right under the flag rather than the worm, like the one on the left.