NASA lunar program aims for daring commercial landing in 2025

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Like Pink Floyd, a new NASA-funded commercial mission will see us on the “dark” side of the moon.

The agency announced (opens in a new tab) On Thursday (July 21), it will task a team led by Draper to transport a suite of science and technology payloads to Schrödinger’s Crater (opens in a new tab), an impact basin on the far side of the moon. The Draper SERIES-2 lander’s touchdown is scheduled for 2025.

The $73 million Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract, if successfully executed, will represent the first time NASA science will land on the far side of the moon. (This is the eighth CLPS contract announced to date and also the first CLPS mission to target the other side.)

Related: Every mission to the moon

Only one country has successfully completed a mission to the far side of the moon, and relatively recently: the Chinese Chang’e 4 lander carrying the Yutu 2 rover arrived in the Von Kármán crater on January 2, 2019. moon lands because this side is not in direct radio communication with Earth, which means that all information must be transmitted to our planet by satellite relay.

NASA said the remote uncrewed mission will bring science together in a region very different from crewed Artemis lunar missions, allowing for valuable context. (Astronauts will instead be working in the south pole region, on the near side of the moon.)

“Understanding the geophysical activity on the far side of the moon will give us a deeper understanding of our solar system and provide information to help us prepare for Artemis astronaut missions to the lunar surface,” Administrator Joel Kearns Associate Associate for Exploration in NASA Science Mission Leadership in Washington, the agency statement said.

CLPS is an agency program that aims to study the history and environment of the moon using landers and rovers developed by individuals that transport experiments and equipment to and on the lunar surface.

Draper’s lander design is based on the work of a Tokyo-based U.S. subsidiary of ispace, which unveiled the Series 2 robotic lunar lander in 2021. To stay in touch with Earth, the statement by Draper (opens in a new tab) said the company plans to contract Blue Canyon Technologies for two satellites to be deployed just before landing.

Advanced Space, the operator of the CAPSTONE lunar mission currently heading to the Moon, “will support the team in mission planning and satellite operations,” the statement added.

The lunar science payloads that Draper will carry, selected in 2019 and 2021, include three packages to probe Schrödinger’s crater.

One of the packages is Farside Seismic Suite (FSS), which will include two seismometers to measure moonquakes, allowing scientists to know how often the far side is hit by small meteoroids.

The Lunar Interior Temperature and Materials Suite (LITMS) will examine how the moon’s interior can conduct heat and electricity, while the Lunar Surface Electromagnetic Experiment (LuSEE) will search for the electrostatic properties behind the strange ‘dancing dust’ ” on the surface of the moon. LuSEE will also examine how the solar wind, or the constant stream of charged particles from the sun, interfaces with the lunar surface and magnetic fields, among other research.

Artemis seeks to land humans on the moon no earlier than 2025 to perform crewed scientific research. The program’s first uncrewed test mission, Artemis 1, could launch as early as August 29 as the team continues to work on tasks for a “wetsuit rehearsal” test launch earlier in the year. .

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace (opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) and on Facebook (opens in a new tab).

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