Published: Mon, June 03, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

NASA sets sights on Moon missions, selects 3 firms for lunar deliveries

NASA sets sights on Moon missions, selects 3 firms for lunar deliveries

NASA is not the only one going to the moon.

NASA has chosen three commercial ventures that haven't yet launched anything into space to deliver science experiments to the moon's surface, starting next year.

"OrbitBeyond is thrilled to have been selected by @NASA among the first ever commercial Moon landings and scientific payload delivery services for the #Artemis program", the company wrote on Twitter.

NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Service (CLPS) will use private contractors to send science and other payloads to the lunar surface - paving the way for human missions by 2024.

As part of the newly named Artemis program, the agency is seeking global cooperation while encouraging increased private sector development through the CLPS program.

Next on its to do list, the agency must decide which equipment will fly on each flight.

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Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon within five years, NASA's Artemis lunar exploration plans are based on a two-phase approach: the first is focused on speed - landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024 - while the second will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028. NASA has set aside $2.6 billion to spend over 10 years for its CLPS program, with each of the nine companies guaranteed at least $25,000 for its participation, though individual contracts for actual science or technology payloads and mission will vary depending on the service.

The announcement was made during a NASA TV broadcast on May 31 hosted by Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the agency's Science Mission Directorate.

Astrobiotic plans to take off in June 2021, landing the following month in Lacus Mortis, a large crater on the moon's near side. The company hopes to transport as many as four payloads to a larva plain in one of the Moon's craters.

The three companies have been given $77 million (Rs 535 crore) to $97 million (Rs 674 crore) each to develop their landers.

Intuitive Machines will try to land by July 2021 in Oceanous Procellarum, a dark spot on the Moon visible from Earth.

But each company's lander will be carrying more than just NASA's payloads. The new Apollo lunar lander will add to the seven new Lego City Space sets that depict the future of NASA's space exploration. The Astrobotic lander is scheduled to be launched by July 2021.

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