NASA names winner of a $93 million lunar lander contract

NASA has dished out $93.3. million to Firefly Aerospace to help it deliver a suite of 10 science investigations and technology demonstrations to the moon in 2023.

The Cedar Park, Texas-based company will use its Blue Ghost lunar lander (below) to deliver the payloads weighing a total of 94 kg to the moon’s Mare Crisium basin. A launch vehicle for the mission is yet to be decided.

An illustration of Firefly Aerospace’s Blue Ghost lander on the lunar surface. Firefly Aerospace

Firefly’s moon trip will aim to investigate a range of lunar surface conditions and resources as part of preparations for the next human landing expected to take place no earlier than 2024.

“The payloads we’re sending as part of this delivery service span across multiple areas, from investigating the lunar soil and testing a sample capture technology, to giving us information about the moon’s thermal properties and magnetic field,” NASA’s Chris said in a release on Thursday, February 4. Specific details on each of the payloads are available on NASA’s website.

The award is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative — a key element of the Artemis spaceflight program — that involves the agency hiring the services of commercial partners for future moon missions. This is the sixth award for lunar surface delivery under the CLPS initiative, NASA said.

Firefly said it was “honored to be selected by NASA,” adding that its 330-strong team of aerospace professionals is continuing development work on its Alpha rocket and SUV spacecraft as it seeks to become one of America’s leading space transportation providers, ultimately competing with the likes of SpaceX.

Space fans will be hoping Firefly can meet the 2023 goal for its ambitious mission, as all too often such timelines run into issues. NASA’s plan to put the first woman and next man on the moon, for example, looks set to miss the 2024 target date as a slew of issues that include funding challenges, rising costs, and unexpected schedule delays take their toll.

Fancy taking a quick trip to the moon right now? Then check out this impressive flyover of our nearest neighbor created using footage and photos captured by a lunar orbiter.

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