NASA selects 3 teams to design next-generation Moon Buggy | Tech Crunch

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NASA has given three space agencies the chance to design the next-generation lunar buggy — but only one design will go into space. Inherent Machines, Lunar Outpost and Venturi Astrolabe are developing rugged vehicles intended for astronauts to roam the lunar surface, from which NASA may choose early next year.

The three teams will now enter a 12-month “feasibility phase” that will culminate in a preliminary design review. At that point, there will be a further competitive request for proposals, where three companies will compete for a demonstration task order, NASA officials explained at a press conference Wednesday.

At that time, the final awardee will be selected. The chosen company will be responsible not only for designing the LTV, but also for launching and landing on the Moon ahead of the Artemis V mission, which is currently slated for no earlier than 2029.

NASA declined to specify the dollar value of the awards, but Intuitive Machines said in a statement that it won the $30 million contract. The total potential value of all task orders over the next 13 years is $4.6 billion.

All three teams are keeping specifications such as range or battery technology close to the chest, but NASA says the rover will have an impressive 10-year lifespan and the ability to carry two fit astronauts.

Natural Machinery is leading a team that includes AVL, Boeing, Michelin and Northrop Grumman; Lunar Outpost leads the “Lunar Dawn” team that includes Lockheed Martin, General Motors, Goodyear and MDA Space; And Astrolabe was joined by Axiom Space and Odyssey Space Research.

NASA Lunar Terrain Vehicle

The awards are the latest given to private industry under the agency's ambitious Artemis program, which seeks to eventually establish a permanent human presence on the Moon. But to really explore the surface, astronauts need something to move around — and it has to survive the harsh climate of the moon's south pole, which is known for extreme temperature swings and very long nights.

“Think of it as a hybrid of an Apollo-style lunar rover powered by a mobile science platform without our astronauts and crew,” said Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA's Johnson Space Center.

With the vehicles, astronauts will be able to transport scientific instruments, collect samples from the surface and travel longer distances than on foot, said Jacob Bleicher, NASA's chief exploration scientist. When astronauts aren't on the moon, humans can operate the LTV remotely so it can continue to explore the region and even meet new astronauts when they land on the surface.

“With NASA's Artemis campaign, we are building the capabilities needed to establish long-term exploration and presence of the Moon,” he said. “Wherever it goes, there are no roads. Its mobility fundamentally changes our view of the Moon.

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