NASA has announced that it has signed contracts to deliver payloads to three different Lunar landing sites in 2020 and 2021.
The contracts were awarded to:
Orbit Beyond of Edison, N.J.: US$97 million to transport as many as four payloads to Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains) on the Moon by September 2020.
Astrobotic of Pittsburgh, Penn.: $79.5 million to transport as many as 14 payloads to Lacus Mortis (Lake of Death) on the Moonby July 2021.
Intuitive Machines of Houston, Texas: $77 million to transport as many as five payloads to Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms) on the Moon by July 2021.
“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 Washington. “What we learn will not only change our view of the universe but also prepare our human missions to the Moon and eventually Mars.”
Two of the locations – Imbrium and Procellarum – have been targets for future development by Luna Society International for nearly twenty years. The Society has not designated a preferred site in Lacus Mortis at this time.
“This announcement starts a significant step in NASA’s collaboration with our commercial partners,” said Chris Culbert, CLPS program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “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,” Culbert continued, “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.”
This project continues NASA’s plans to partner with commercial space contractors, rather than developing its own vehicles and infrastructure.
The proposed Artemis lunar exploration program is based on a two-phase approach: the first being focused on speed – returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024 – while the second will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028.