April 23, 2024

US Space Agency: NASA awards lunar vehicle contracts to three companies

Three companies will build lunar rovers on behalf of the US space agency NASA. NASA announced that private space companies Intuitive Machines, Lunar Outpost and Venturi Astrolab have been selected for a total contract worth $4.6 billion (about 4.3 billion euros).

Each of the three companies will initially work on a prototype for a year before deciding which vehicle to send to the moon, how and when. All companies have been working in similar fields for a long time. Intuitive Machines achieved the first commercial unmanned landing on the moon in February.

“We are building the capabilities necessary for long-term exploration and presence on the Moon,” Jacob Bleicher, NASA’s chief scientist, told reporters. He added that the new lunar module “will radically change our vision of the moon.”

In the future, astronauts will be able to move on the surface of the Moon using so-called Lunar Terrain Vehicles (LTV). The vehicles must be able to withstand the harsh conditions on the Moon, and there are also high requirements for power supplies, autonomous driving, communications and navigation, among other things. It is also assumed that two astronauts will be able to collect samples in remote areas. The LTV will have a robotic arm and will be able to transport scientific equipment. It should also be able to operate independently when the astronauts are not around.

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NASA plans to carry out manned missions to the moon in 2025 and 2026

“These vehicles will greatly enhance astronauts’ ability to explore and conduct research on the lunar surface,” said Vanessa Wyche, head of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. “At the same time, it will serve as a science platform between manned missions.”

Through the Artemis program, named after the Greek goddess of the moon, NASA wants to send people to the moon for the first time in more than half a century, including the first person of color and the first woman. The long-term goal of Artemis is to create a permanent lunar base as a basis for missions to Mars.

However, NASA had to postpone the crewed lunar orbit of Artemis 2, originally planned for November 2024, to September 2025 due to problems with the rocket and spacecraft, and the crewed lunar landing of Artemis 3 to September 2026. There is competition from China, which will put people On the moon by 2030 they want to bring it.