The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has selected American private companies Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines, and Orbit Beyond to deliver payloads under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS). Moreover, the landers built by the three mentioned companies will perform tests for America’s first woman and the next man on the moon.
These missions will be significant in NASA’s Project Artemis — who aims to conduct space explorations from American soil in 2025. Moreover, these robotic tests would be critical data resources to establish the ambitious plans of a prolonged stay in the Moon’s surface and propel humans farther into space.
“Our selection of these U.S. commercial landing service providers represents America’s return to the Moon’s surface for the first time in decades, and it’s a huge step forward for our Artemis lunar exploration plans,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. ”Next year, our initial science and technology research will be on the lunar surface, which will help support sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon in five years. Investing in these commercial landing services also is another strong step to build a commercial space economy beyond low-Earth orbit.”
In an announcement yesterday, NASA will spend investing in private companies a total of around $253 million in contracts to enable them to perform these missions on behalf of NASA in the next following years.
“NASA is committed to working with industry to enable the next round of lunar exploration. The companies we have selected represent a diverse community of exciting small American companies, each with their own unique, innovative approach to getting to the Moon. We look forward to working with them to have our payloads delivered and opening the door for returning humans to the Moon,” said Chris Culbert, CLPS program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, in a statement from Houston.
Astronomy Now says that Orbit Beyond of Edison, New Jersey, was awarded $97 million to build and launch its Z-01 spacecraft as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, landing on Mare Imbrium by September 2020.
Astrobotic of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, won $79.5 million to develop its Peregrine lander to carry 14 NASA payloads to a touchdown at Lacus Mortis in July 2021. The company has not yet specified a launcher.
Intuitive Machines of Houston, Texas, is receiving $77 million to fly its Nova-C spacecraft for five payloads to Oceanus Procellarum, also in July 2021. A Falcon 9 will be used to launch the Nova-C.
“This is a new era for the moon,” John Thornton, Astrobotic CEO, said when the contracts were announced 31 May. “It’s been almost 50 years since we’ve been back as a country. Now we’re going back, we’re going to have regular, routine access to the moon in ways we’ve never experienced before. Our scientists are going to get really, really smart about that’s up there. This is a whole new era, an incredibly exciting time.”
The mission will be able to establish systems in predicting lander positions, measuring lunar radiation, assessing lander impacts on the Moon, and navigation.
“These landers are just the beginning of exciting commercial partnerships that will bring us closer to solving the many scientific mysteries of our Moon, our solar system, and beyond,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in a statement. “What we learn will not only change our view of the universe but also prepare our human missions to the Moon and eventually Mars.”
NASA June 2 Tweeted images of the Moon taken by astronaut Christina Koch aboard the International Space Station. It then used the images to discuss the Artemis mission.
NASA has recently confirmed that it is planning on sending astronauts to the dark side of the Moon in its upcoming lunar mission. “Contrary to popular belief, the Moon’s far side is also referred to as the dark side, not because of the absence of light in the region. Instead, it got its nickname because it always remains unseen from Earth’s perspective,” the International Business Times said.
“The mission will serve as a historic move for NASA since it will be the first time that humans will land on the far side or the Moon’s South Pole. This region houses the largest crater in the Solar System, known as the South Pole – Aitken basin,” says IBT.