For the first time since the 1970s, the United States plans to send devices to the surface of the Moon in 2020 and 2021, awaiting a manned lunar mission in 2024, NASA announced on Friday.
The American space agency chose American companies Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and Orbit Beyond to send instruments and other scientific devices to the Moon as part of the Artemis program.
The administration of President Donald Trump has accelerated the schedule for placing people on the moon, with a new target date of 2024 – postponed by four years.
Each company has developed lunar landers of various sizes and shapes: one is tall and the other two are more compact.
Landers will provide up to 23 small shipments of equipment provided by NASA. This should include materials that will collect information to help astronauts later land, navigate and protect themselves from radiation.
Orbit Beyond will land in Mare Imbrium, a lunar plain in the lunar crater, until September 2020, after being fired by one of the SpaceX rockets from Falcon 9.
Intuitive machines will try to land until July 2021 in Oceanous Procellarum, a dark patch on the moon visible from Earth. SpaceX will also facilitate commissioning.
Astrobotic, which is based in Pittsburgh, until July 2021. It targets at Lacus Mortis, a large crater near the Moon. He must still choose a delivery racket.
NASA gave companies 77-97 million dollars to develop their landers.
"Next year, our initial scientific and technological research will be conducted on the surface of the Moon, which will help support the first woman and the next man to be sent to the Moon in five years," said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.
"Investing in these commercial landing services is another strong step to building a commercial space economy beyond the low Earth's orbit."
The United States recently sent a manned mission to the Moon in 1972, the year of the last Apollo mission.
NASA regularly sent lunar probes to orbit, but currently it has only two active missions: the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and ARTEMIS probes.
In the meantime, China has landed twice on the Moon in recent years: in 2013, and January on the other side.
The Chang & # 39; e 4 probe and its motorized Yutu-2 robot are currently the only surface active probes.