Skip to main content

These 3 companies are developing NASA’s new moon vehicle

NASA has big plans for the moon — not only sending people back to the moon for the first time in over 50 years but also having them investigate the exciting south pole region, where water is thought to be available. The plan is not just for astronauts to visit for a day or two, but to have them stay on the moon for weeks at a time, exploring the surrounding area. And to explore, they can’t just travel on foot — they’ll need a new moon buggy.

Today, Wednesday, April 3, NASA announced the three companies developing its new lunar vehicle: Intuitive Machines, Lunar Outpost, and Venturi Astrolab. They’ll each develop a lunar terrain vehicle (LTV) that can carry astronauts from their landing site across the moon’s surface, allowing them to range further and reach more areas of interest.

An artist’s concept design of NASA’s Lunar Terrain Vehicle.
An artist’s concept design of NASA’s Lunar Terrain Vehicle. NASA

“We look forward to the development of the Artemis generation lunar exploration vehicle to help us advance what we learn at the Moon,” said Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, in a statement. “This vehicle will greatly increase our astronauts’ ability to explore and conduct science on the lunar surface while also serving as a science platform between crewed missions.”

Intuitive Machines has already proven its lunar chops with the historic landing of its Odysseus craft on the moon earlier this year — challenges of that landing notwithstanding — and along with Astrolab and Lunar Outpost, it has submitted concepts to NASA for the LTV, which will now be studied over the next year.

The LTV will need to handle the extreme cold at the lunar south pole, as well as environmental challenges like the fine, dusty material called regolith, which the moon is covered in. The moon’s surface has many craters and rocks, so any vehicle hoping to traverse it will need to be able to handle slopes and slippery conditions. The hope is that a suitable vehicle can be developed for use in the Artemis V mission and beyond in the 2030s.

“We will use the LTV to travel to locations we might not otherwise be able to reach on foot, increasing our ability to explore and make new scientific discoveries,” said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist in the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “With the Artemis crewed missions, and during remote operations when there is not a crew on the surface, we are enabling science and discovery on the Moon year-round.”

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
Listen to the sounds of a space nebula with NASA sonifications
nasa sonifications nebula documentary sonify8 525 1

A NASA project called sonifications gives a new way to experience beautiful images of space: via sound. Three new sonifications have translated visual information in images taken by NASA telescopes into soundscapes, letting you hear the sounds of cosmic objects.

The new sonifications are of a famous nebula, a distant galaxy, and a dead star, using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory as well as the James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope. Previous sonifications have included the sounds of a black hole and a pair of interacting galaxies.

Read more
NASA and Russian satellites just miss in ‘too close for comfort’ pass
An illustration of NASA's TIMED satellite.

There’s already enough hazardous debris in orbit, but on Wednesday, an incident occurred that almost created a whole lot more.

It involved NASA’s operational TIMED satellite and the defunct Russian Cosmos 2221 satellite, which came alarmingly close to colliding about 378 miles (608 kilometers) above Earth.

Read more
See images of the tilted Odysseus lander on the moon
Taken on February 27th, flight controllers commanded Odysseus to capture a new image using its narrow-field-of-view camera. Previous attempts to send photos from landing and the days following returned unusable imagery. After successfully transmitting the image to Earth, flight controllers received additional insight into Odysseus’ position on the lunar surface

The first lunar landing by a U.S. entity in 50 years was celebrated last week, but the lander from Intuitive Machines, named Odysseus, has had a challenging time as it landed at a tilted angle. New images released by the company show the damage that the Odysseus lander incurred during landing and sitting tilted on the moon's surface, but the company stressed that it considered the mission a success as it was able to perform a controlled soft landing and get science data from all of its payloads.

The lander is expected to run out of power within a few hours, but there is a possibility the company will be able to power it back on in a couple of weeks once the lunar night ends.

Read more