NASA picks 12 groups to build Moon mission payloads

Twelve American companies and universities will build payloads for NASA’s mission to return to the Moon.

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NASA announced the 12 groups this week for its Artemis lunar program as it aims to send astronauts back to the Moon by 2024 and establish a sustained human presence there by 2028.

The Moon missions are intended to help prepare for an eventual mission to send humans to Mars.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate program, said each of the selected payloads will take advantage of early flights through its commercial services project.

“Each demonstrates either a new science instrument or a technological innovation that supports scientific and human exploration objectives, and many have broader applications for Mars and beyond,” he said.

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The 12 payload selections include:

  • <strong>MoonRanger</strong>, a small, fast rover from Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh. It has the capability to drive beyond a lander’s communications range and then return. The rover will allow investigations 0.6 miles from the lander and will be used to map the terrain.
  • <strong>Heimdall,</strong> a flexible camera system for conducting lunar science on commercial vehicles from the Planetary Science Institute of Tucson, Arizona. It uses four cameras with a single digital recorder.
  • <strong>Lunar demonstration of a reconfigurable, radiation-tolerant computer system.</strong> Investigators from Montana State University aim to demonstrate radiation-tolerant computing technology, which is a challenge on the Moon due to its lack of atmosphere and magnetic field.
  • <strong>Regolith adherence characterization payload,</strong> from Alpha Space Test and Research Alliance of Houston, which will determine how lunar material sticks to other materials exposed to the Moon’s environment.
  • The <strong>lunar magnetotelluric sounder,</strong> from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, is designed to examine the structure and composition of the Moon’s mantle using a device originally made for a spacecraft currently orbiting Mars.
  • The <strong>lunar surface electromagnetics experiment,</strong> from UC Berkeley, will measure electromagnetic phenomena on the Moon’s surface.
  • The <strong>lunar environment heliospheric X-ray imager,</strong> from Boston University, will capture images of the interaction between Earth’s magnetosphere and solar wind, which is a flow of charged particles from the Sun.
  • <strong>Next generation lunar retroflectors,</strong> from the University of Maryland, will be used as a target for lasers on Earth to precisely measure the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
  • The <strong>lunar compact infrared imaging system,</strong> from the University of Colorado, will map the surface temperature on the Moon.
  • The <strong>lunar instrumentation for subsurface thermal exploration with rapidity,</strong> from Texas Tech University, will probe 7 to 10 feet into the Moon to measure heat flow from the interior of the Moon.
  • <strong>PlanetVac,</strong> from Honeybee Robotics of Pasadena, California, will be used for collecting lunar material so other instruments can analyze it, or it can be put in a container to return to Earth.
  • <strong>SAMPLR,</strong> from Maxar Technologies of Westminster, Colorado, will use a robotic arm to collect lunar samples.