Vehicles | October 5, 2021 8:00 am

Who Will Make NASA’s Next-Gen Astrovan?

The Artemis program is currently accepting proposals for a new vehicle to transport astronauts to the launch pad

The NASA Astrovan, an Airstream motorhome outfitted to shuttle astronauts to the launch site, sitting still on a road
#Astrovanlife, anyone?
NASA/Bill Ingalls

From 1984 until 2011, NASA’s astronauts traveled to the space shuttle launch pad via another distinctive vehicle: the gleaming silver Astrovan, a modified Airstream motorhome with a very specific purpose. It became a launch-day tradition to travel in the van, which an article on NASA’s website described as “history-filled, if somewhat dated.” And if such a trip made the crew more relaxed for their upcoming voyage into space, so much the better.

For space travel enthusiasts, this week brings exciting news. The Astrovan is slated to make a comeback, with NASA releasing a call for proposals for a new iteration; though, as Zac Palmer notes at Autoblog, a full upgrade of the original Astrovan could also be in the cards.

Per NASA’s announcement, the new Astrovan will be used to transport crew for the upcoming Artemis program, designed to send humans back to the Moon and, later, to Mars. Based on what the agency has listed, a host of possibilities are in the cards, including refurbishing the existing van, modifying an existing model of a vehicle or creating something entirely custom.

The announcement stresses that the new Astrovan will need to be a zero-emissions vehicle, capable of carrying eight people and delivered no later than June 2023. It also mentions that NASA will hold a site visit on October 13 — and, one assumes, we’ll have a better sense of the interested parties after that.