NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the selection of the three commercial landing service providers was a huge step forward for the lunar exploration plans. These payloads would be various science and technology experiments, designed by both NASA and commercial partners. Though it's yet to be seen which it selects, the space agency is considering sending instruments involved with determining lander positions, conducting lunar science, detecting how human activity impacts the Moon's environment, and more. These include an Earth-to-Moon laser communication system, manufacturing tests on the moon's surface, and various designs for providing power on the moon.
NASA has awarded Astrobotic $79.5 million, and plans on flying as many as 14 payloads to the moon by July of 2021.
NASA said it will decide exactly which experiments to send on the landers by the end of summer 2019.
Intuitive Machines of Houston, which has won $77 million and is proposing to fly as many as five payloads to Oceanus Procellarum, a big dark spot on the western edge of the moon's near side, by July 2021. They're targeting either the Sea of Storms or the Sea of Tranquility, just east of where Apollo 15 landed in 1971.
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As anticipated, NASA has named the three private companies that will make cargo deliveries to the Moon. The first mission, by Orbit Beyond, will launch in September 2020.
Today's awards are the first to be announced under the terms of the space agency's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, or CLPS, which draws from a "catalog" of flight opportunities offered by nine commercial teams.
Meanwhile, New Moon Mondays offers weekly space documentaries, expert insights and analysis of the Apollo 11 mission, in partnership with Sugar Films and engineering firm Draper Labs' wehackthemoon.com, including the premiere episode Hack the Moon: Unsung Heroes of Apollo, about the little-known stories of the engineers and scientists who made the first moon landing possible. They acknowledged that the descent and landing phase is tricky and likely the most unsafe.
Aside from the decent and ascent stages, Lego included the "moon base" phase, which has craters, a nameplate, footprints, and a section for a flag.