June 02, 2019
Intuitive Machines, Astrobotic, and OrbitBeyond will work with NASA to deliver science and research cargo to the moon.
On Friday, NASA officials and executives said the companies could complete their first missions within a few years.
In a press release, NASA said the cargo will include devices that will assist in mapping and navigating the moon’s surface, as well as devices that will measure radiation levels and conduct scientific investigations and assess what effect human activity has on the moon.
NASA’s partnerships are part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS), which was introduced last year and includes about $2.6 billion in contracts.
Intuitive Machines will be awarded $77 million, Astrobotic is set to receive $79.5 million, and OrbitBeyond will receive $97 million. Intuitive Machines and Astrobotic plan to launch their first missions in 2021, while OrbitBeyond plans to land on the lunar surface by September 2020.
In a video statement, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said, “Today, NASA becomes a customer of commercial partners who will deliver our science instruments and our lunar technology to the moon. The landers and instruments they deliver — and the science, technology and research that will be done in the immediate future — will prepare the way for humanity’s return to the moon by 2024.”
NASA has been advocating for a program called Artemis, which would return astronauts to the moon within five years. It would be the first manned deep-space mission in almost fifty years. However, the program faces political roadblocks, and financial sources are uncertain.
So far, NASA has expressed interest in working with commercial companies that will assist them in returning to the moon. Among those private companies competing for private contracts are: Blue Origin, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and SpaceX.
NASA plans on constructing a lunar outpost that would require large amounts of tested infrastructure and technology that would allow astronauts to convert ice water on the moon into rocket fuel. Also of interest are the valuable resources that currently lay untapped on the moon. This has led many government officials and business leaders to speculate with near certainty that the moon will be the next hub of commercial and government activity.
– MK. II