​Three companies can try their hand at the moon car for NASA

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​Three companies can try their hand at the moon car for NASA

Where we used to be happy when we set foot on the moon, we now want to take a whole car to the moon to recognize everything. The astronauts who set foot on the moon during the Artemis V mission will therefore also take a “car ride”.

Intuitive Machines

NASA leaves that (just like some of the transport and space suits) to other companies. NASA has chosen Lunar Outpost, Venturi Astrolab and Intuitive Machines for this round. Perhaps not names that are immediately familiar to you, although Intuitive Machines is the company behind that complicated moon landing recently. In any case, they are certainly not small companies. These types of tenders are rarely made by small companies because a lot of money is needed. Many things used in the Artemis mission are developed by private companies that partly receive money from NASA to develop, and partly are financed from their own pockets (or through investors).

Mooncart

This time, NASA has a lot to pay for a good moon cart: it is said that the company that ultimately wins the tender could probably earn as much as $4.6 billion from NASA orders over the next 13 years. But they also have to do something for that. For example, the moon car must operate at the moon’s south pole, where water ice may be found. This is where NASA hopes to set up a base camp.

By the way, we say car, but this will not be an SUV. It is a Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) and will probably look more like a buggy. Maybe a buggy that looks like a Tesla Cybertruck, but ultimately a kind of buggy. It must fit two astronauts, but above all it must have robotic capabilities and it must become a kind of steerable car, so that NASA can drive it around even when there are no people on the wall. Most importantly, this moon car can withstand different temperatures: the moon reaches temperatures far, far above 0 and very far below. Temperatures that we do not experience at all on Earth. The LTV is also really used to get to locations that we cannot reach on foot, so this is a very important device, especially in the context of research and discovery.

Artemis V

There are prototypes on the table, but the question now is how realistic it is to create a system that works. The companies have a year to figure this out, after which they have to demonstrate it to NASA in order to be allowed to develop it further. Ultimately, the safety and performance of the final device must also be carefully examined before it goes on the Artemis V mission. So it is not yet about the Artemis III mission that will put people on the moon for the first time: it is about the fifth. The third would also be somewhat ‘fast’ in space development: that mission is scheduled for 2026, after Artemis II will first be launched in 2025 (with people on board, but after a orbit around the moon they will return home.

The intention is to see how we can allow astronauts to stay on the moon a little longer, for example by using the water ice as drinking water, but potentially even as fuel. However, it’s all preparatory work for an even bigger mission, and that is reaching Mars, which some people (we’re looking at you, Elon Musk) even think should be colonized. Let’s first see how the Artemis II mission does, although we are especially curious about the long-awaited Artemis III.

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