NASA picks science payloads for 1st two unmanned private lunar landers


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Capitalism in space: NASA has chosen the science instruments that will be put on the 1st two unmanned privately built lunar landers aimed at arriving on the Moon in 2021.

Two experiments will be flown on both landers. The Astrobotic lander gets an additional nine instruments, while Intuitive Machines gets three.

The most interesting tidbit from the press release is that NASA hopes to make “about two deliveries of scientific and research payloads to the Moon per year starting in 2021.” Seems overly optimistic to me, though in the long run the approach makes sense for NASA. These landers are relatively small and cheap, so the cost to fly a lot of them is not exorbitant. Under this arrangement, if one fails you simply figure out why and quickly fly another.

For this new American industry the approach also works. The companies will own the designs, so soon they will be able to market this technology to other customers, at what is historically record low prices for such a mission. The result is likely going to be the arrival of a swarm of new customers.

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2 comments

  • wodun

    A swarm would be great but hopefully some of them find at least enough customers to stay in business. I hope this dual track approach gives us the information we need to decide good places to go by the time SuperHeavy/Starship are operational.

  • Patrick Underwood

    I dunno, it’s easy to imagine the agency (or Congress) strangling this infant in the crib somehow. Believe it when you see it.

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