Lua: companies compete to manufacture rover – 04/04/2024 – Science

Lua: companies compete to manufacture rover – 04/04/2024 – Science


NASA announced, this Wednesday (3), the three companies that will compete in the manufacture of a terrestrial vehicle to transport astronauts on lunar territory during the Artemis missions.

The companies selected to manufacture the rover, as this type of space exploration vehicle is called, are Intuitive Machines, based in Texas, which in February landed a probe near the lunar south pole, Lunar Outpost, from Colorado, and Venturi Astrolab, from California.

The American space agency tasked the three with developing the projects in contracts worth a total of US$4.6 billion (R$23.3 billion).

“As astronauts explore the Moon’s south pole during our Artemis missions, they will be able to go further and do more science than ever before, thanks to the Lunar Land Rover […] This will give the crew the ability to travel a much greater distance from their landing sites,” said Vanessa Wyche, director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, at a press conference.

After a year of development, only one of the companies will be chosen to send their rover to the Moon, at least for the Artemis 5 mission scheduled for 2030.

The vehicle will have space for two astronauts and must be equipped with a robotic arm to collect samples and transport scientific equipment. Furthermore, it must be able to function autonomously when astronauts are not present, a big difference from the time of the Apollo program.

“We are building the capabilities necessary to establish long-term exploration and presence on the Moon,” said Jacob Bleacher, NASA’s chief exploration scientist. “I like to imagine the views and panoramic views that LTV [veículo de terreno lunar, na sigla em inglês] will allow us to see from the surface of the Moon,” he added.

Understanding the Moon

The lunar south pole, where there is frozen water, has not yet been visited by humans. “NASA wants to know how much ice there is below the surface and whether we can access it,” explained Bleacher.

This will help understand how the Moon formed and evolved, and whether it could provide a resource for future explorers. The region presents difficult conditions, especially in terms of extreme temperatures.

NASA has requested that the winning company can provide its transportation services for ten years, possibly sending several rovers in succession. The contract with NASA also leaves the possibility of using the vehicle for private customers.

Intuitive Machines is working on its prototype, the Racer (Manned Reusable Autonomous Exploration Rover), in partnership with AVL, Boeing, Michelin and Northrop Grumman.

Venturi Astrolab develops Flex (Flexible Logistics and Exploration), together with Axiom Space and Odyssey Space Research.

While Lunar Outpost intends to create Lunar Dawn, in collaboration with the companies Lockheed Martin, General Motors, Goodyear and MDA Space.

The United States plans to send astronauts back to the Moon and build a base there as part of the Artemis program. The first manned mission, Artemis 3, is scheduled to reach the satellite’s surface in 2026.


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