During a NASA press conference Friday, Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate, introduced the first three of nine companies awarded contracts to deliver payloads to the moon over the next few years.
Those companies are Astrobiotic of Pittsburgh, Intuitive Machines from Houston, and Orbit Beyond, located in both Edison, New Jersey and Daytona, Florida. The contracts for all three total about $250 million.
The landers are small, roughly as tall as a human and capable of carrying small science experiments weighing up to ten pounds. They represent the first step in NASA’s Artemis program to return to the moon.
Each company is building a lander capable of delivering multiple payloads to the moon as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS). These payloads would be various science and technology experiments, designed by both NASA and commercial partners.
Many of these experiments focus on volatiles like water, which can be used for fuel or to sustain life during crewed missions. Previous missions have examined the moon’s water ice, but scientists need to learn more in order to best utilize it for future missions.
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