NASA Selects Three Teams to Design Next-Generation Moon Buggy


NASA has enlisted the expertise of three space companies to develop the next iteration of the moon buggy, with only one design slated for lunar deployment. Intuitive Machines, Lunar Outpost, and Venturi Astrolab have been tasked with crafting robust vehicles to traverse the lunar surface, with NASA expected to make its selection as soon as next year.

Images Credits: techcrunch (Intuitive Machines)

The selected teams will embark on a 12-month “feasibility phase,” culminating in a preliminary design review. Following this, a competitive request for proposals will be issued, allowing the companies to vie for a demonstration task order, as elucidated by NASA officials during a recent press briefing.

Subsequently, a final awardee will be chosen. This company will not only be responsible for the lunar terrain vehicle’s (LTV) design but also for its launch and landing on the moon ahead of the Artemis V mission, tentatively scheduled for no earlier than 2029.

While NASA refrained from disclosing the monetary value of the awards, Intuitive Machines stated that it had secured a $30 million contract. The total potential value of all task orders over the next 13 years is estimated to be $4.6 billion.

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Details regarding specifications, such as range or battery technology, have been kept confidential by the three teams. However, NASA has stipulated that the rover must boast an impressive 10-year lifespan and be capable of accommodating two suited astronauts.

Intuitive Machines leads a consortium comprising AVL, Boeing, Michelin, and Northrop Grumman, while Lunar Outpost spearheads the “Lunar Dawn” team, which includes Lockheed Martin, General Motors, Goodyear, and MDA Space. Astrolab collaborates with Axiom Space and Odyssey Space Research.

Images Credits: techcrunch (Intuitive Machines)

These awards mark the latest developments in NASA’s ambitious Artemis program, aimed at establishing a permanent human presence on the moon. To navigate the lunar terrain effectively, astronauts require reliable means of transportation capable of withstanding the harsh conditions of the lunar south pole, characterized by extreme temperature fluctuations and prolonged periods of darkness.

Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, likened the moon buggy to a hybrid of the Apollo-era lunar rover and an unmanned mobile science platform. The vehicles will enable astronauts to transport scientific equipment, gather surface samples, and extend their exploration range beyond on-foot travel.

Jacob Bleacher, NASA’s chief exploration scientist, emphasized that the mobility offered by these vehicles will revolutionize lunar exploration, enabling continued exploration in the absence of astronauts and facilitating rendezvous with incoming crew members.

“With NASA’s Artemis campaign, we are building up the capabilities needed to establish a longer-term exploration and presence of the moon,” Bleacher stated. “Its mobility will fundamentally change our view of the moon, opening up new frontiers for exploration.”

Data Source: techcrunch

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