First Commercial Moon Landing Contracts Signed by NASA

Unmanned landers will travel to the moon via NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services

Moon landing
NASA will return to the moon by 2024. (Getty)
By Ariel Scotti / June 4, 2019 10:17 am

NASA announced that three commercial, unmanned landers will travel to the moon under its Commercial Lunar Payload Services in order to support future science and technological experiments. The flights are each part of the Artemis program that will return U.S. astronauts to the Moon by 2024.

The missions will include lunar science experiments, surface radiation measurements, testing new navigation and landing technologies, and measuring the effect of landings on the lunar environment, according to New Atlas. Each of the three contractors will provide start-to-finish support for the missions “from development, to launch, to landing.”

The three lucky contracted companies are: Astrobotic of Pittsburgh, which was awarded $79.5 million to land 14 payloads by July 2021; Intuitive Machines of Houston, a Texas-based company that landed a $77 million contract to conduct five missions by July 2021; and Orbit Beyond of Edison, New Jersey, which received a $97 million to land up to four payloads by September 2020.

“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 Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. “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.”

Each mission will also work towards the general goal of helping NASA to create more sophisticated unmanned and manned shuttles. After Americans return to the moon for the first time since 1972, the next goal will be to establish a “sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028” and begin the process of getting people on Mars.

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