Lockheed Martin has unveiled the design for a reusable spaceship that will carry astronauts from the planned lunar outpost to the surface of the moon.
The lunar lander would be able to carry up to four astronauts and up to 1 metric ton of cargo. It is expected to be in operation by the late 2020s.
Return To The Moon
Thanks to the directive of U.S. President Donald Trump, NASA is returning man on the moon almost 50 years after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had made their heroic first step on the surface of the celestial object. Among the plans is to build the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway that will host scientists, experiments, and the Lockheed lander.
When needed, the lunar lander would depart from the outpost carrying astronauts and cargo. According to the concept published online, it can stay on the surface of the moon for up to two weeks then lift back to the outpost without the need to refuel.
Lockheed Martin said that the lunar lander makes use of many technologies from Orion, the capsule it is currently building for NASA. The multipurpose crew vehicle is made to carry humans to deep space destinations such as the moon and, eventually, Mars.
"There's a lot of development that we've accomplished on Orion, so that helps," explained Tim Cichan, a space exploration architect at Lockheed Martin.
The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway will also serve as the jump-off point for future deep space missions, including manned exploration of Mars.
Lockheed Martin said that the planned moon lander is a precursor for a Mars lander for the proposed Mars Base Camp. Similar to the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, the base camp will serve as a space station that will orbit the red planet and be home to astronauts before they land on the surface or for explorations to Phobos and Deimos.
If, however, NASA does not choose Lockheed Martin's design for a lunar lander, Cichan said that it would not affect the company's plans to build the Mars lander for the Mars Base Camp.
"A precursor lander would be very beneficial but not absolutely required," he assured.