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  • Marijan Hassan - Tech Journalist

NASA picks three companies to develop a Moon rover for its planned lunar exploration mission

NASA has unveiled its selection of three companies that will be in charge of developing the lunar terrain rover for its Artemis lunar explorations. The project is estimated to cost $4.6 billion over the next 13 years.

The companies include Lunar Outpost, Venturi Astrolab, and Intuitive Machines which made headlines after becoming the first private aerospace company to land a spacecraft on the Moon. The spacecraft was the first lunar lander from the US to reach the Moon’s surface in over 50 years.

The Lunar Terrain Vehicle is needed to aid astronauts in navigating the challenging topography of the Moon's south polar region. This area holds strategic importance due to the presence of frozen water, a vital resource for sustaining future human presence on the lunar surface.

Each of the selected companies will embark on the formidable task of designing a rover that can accommodate two astronauts in their spacesuits while withstanding the extreme conditions of the lunar environment. The vehicles also need to be equipped with advanced robotic and remote operation capabilities, enabling NASA to conduct crucial tests and exploratory missions autonomously.

The initial phase of development will involve a feasibility task order, a comprehensive study aimed at refining the proposed rover designs to meet NASA's exacting standards.

Once NASA is confident the designs are up to standard, it will then request a proposal for a demonstration mission to continue development, deliver the rover to the Moon’s surface, and test its performance and safety before the exploration mission officially kicks off.

“We will use the LTV to travel to locations we might not otherwise be able to reach on foot, increasing our ability to explore and make new scientific discoveries,” said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist at NASA.

NASA's Artemis program, born out of a challenge to put humans back on the Moon by 2024, aims to establish a sustainable human presence near the Moon as a stepping stone toward crewed missions to Mars.

While the program has faced several delays – the current target date is set for September 2026 – its overarching objective remains unchanged: to push the boundaries of human exploration and expand our understanding of the cosmos.


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