The companies that will deliver NASA equipment to the moon have been announced.
Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and Orbit Beyond have been selected to ferry payloads from the earth to the moon as part of the ambitious Artemis program.
The companies will be tasked with taking scientific equipment and technology demonstrations owned by NASA, as part of the space agency’s commercial partnership program.
“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.”
NASA turns to commerical partners to fufill directive
NASA will pay the companies handsomely for their important work.
Astrobotic is set to receive $79.5 million, Intuitive Machines roughy $77 million and $97 million will go to Orbit Beyond.
Which lander will take which payloads is yet to be announced by NASA but the companies will do more than one delivery under their contract.
Astrobotic Peregrine lander will carry up to 14 payloads for NASA. Intuitive Machines will fly five payloads on its Nova-C lander, and Orbit Beyond are responsible for carrying four payloads on its own Z-01 lander.
The landers will also carry their own equipment in addition to the NASA payloads.
Demo tech to get tested
Orbit Beyond intends to send a small demo rover that it displayed during the NASA announcement and Astrobotic has said that it also has plans to carry rovers on its lunar lander.
Astrobotic will be the first lander to head to the moon. It's expected to touch down on the lunar surface in both June and July 2021, after an initial June launch.
Intuitive Machines will both launch and land in July 2021.
Orbit Beyond is the last to launch. It has informed NASA that it will be ready to go on Sept. 27, 2020.
"This is truly exciting, a new way for us at NASA to do business," Thomas Zurbuchen, the head of NASA's science mission directorate, said today during the announcement at agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
"We can't wait to do the science that we want to do with instruments that we're developing right now — science that in many cases even five years ago we didn't know how to ask questions about. This is how urgent this is."
For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon - We did that 50 years ago. They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 7, 2019
NASA is urgently ramping up its moon mission after a directive from the Donald Trump-led Republican Administration directed the space agency to make a moon mission a priority.
The mission timeline has been shortened from 2028 to 2024.