scroll: National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Friday announced that the United States is planning to send equipment to the lunar surface in 2020 and 2021. The equipment will carry out scientific investigations and demonstrate advanced technologies so that astronauts can land on the Moon by 2024, the space agency said.
The United States space agency selected three American companies – Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines, and Orbit Beyond – to send the equipment to the Moon as part of the Artemis lunar exploration programme.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said that the selection of the three commercial landing service providers was a huge step forward for the Artemis lunar exploration plans. “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,” he said, in the statement.
NASA said that each of the landing service providers will carry specific instruments to the Moon. The potential payload will include instruments for conducting new lunar science, analyse what impact lander and astronaut activity has on the Moon, and help with navigation precision, among other things.
Pittsburg-based Astrobotic will take payloads to Lacus Mortis, a large crater on the near side of the Moon, by July 2021. Orbit Beyond will reach Mare Imbrium, a lava plain in a crater, by September 2020 while Intuitive Machines will land by July 2021 on Oceanous Procellarum, a dark spot on the Moon. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets will launch both Orbit Beyond and Intuitive Machines but Astrobotic is yet to settle on a delivery rocket, the NASA statement said.
The three companies were given $77 million to $97 million each to develop their landers. “Investing in these commercial landing services also is another strong step to build a commercial space economy beyond low-Earth orbit,” Bridenstine said.
President Donald Trump’s administration has been pushing to send humans to the Moon. In May, the government had declared that American astronauts would be back on the Moon in five years, four years ahead of the former target of 2028, The New York Times reported. Trump had also announced on May 13 that his administration would update the budget to “include an additional $1.6 billion so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!”
The United States had sent a crewed mission to the Moon in 1972. NASA has often sent lunar probes into the orbit, but only two missions are active as of now, AFP reported. China has landed twice on the Moon, once in 2013 and once in January on the far side.
Source: Published by scroll