NASA has unveiled three private landers which will be used in the upcoming moon missions in 2020 and 2021. These latest announcement marks another key step towards the agency’s goal to return on the moon later in 2024 in order to create a long-term presence on the moon by 2028.
In an official statement, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine marked the importance of the upcoming mission. ”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, Bridenstine says.
The three companies selected for the payload mission are Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and Edison and OrbitBeyond. The first one, Astrobotic was paid $79.5 million to carry a over a dozen payloads to the near side of the moon by 2021. On the other hand, the Intuitive Machines was paid $77 million for five additional payload trips. Lastly, OrbitBeyond has signed a $97 million contract to carry up to four payloads to moon by end of next year.
Talking about the selection of these companies, Bridenstine said, “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.”
NASA introduced its Artemis program last month as the space agency plans to send humans back to the Moon by 2024. The entire mission will include two phases with the second one is focused towards creating human presence on the moon by 2028 as mentioned earlier. According to NASA, the scientists are planning on using the knowledge obtained from these missions to prepare for future missions to Mars.