NASA is looking for technology and instrument payloads as part of the planned robotic and manned missions to the surface of the Moon.
NASA Calls For Lunar Surface Instrument And Technology Payloads
On Thursday, Oct. 18, the U.S. space agency officially announced a call for small payloads that will be ready to be launched no later than December 2021. Submissions are open until Nov. 19, but the agency assures that another round of proposals will be selected some time next year and then at regular intervals.
The call is part of the plan to send humans back to the surface of the Moon in 2020s — 50 years after Apollo 17. NASA is also planning to launch a Lunar Gateway to orbit the Moon to house astronauts and experiments, as well as become the jump off point for future missions into deep space.
The space agency is specifically looking for instruments and technologies that could advance science and exploration on the surface of the Moon. The ideal payload will gather data on solar wind, atmosphere, the heat flow in the interior of the Moon, etc. ahead of manned missions.
"The strategy is that these early missions will help us prepare for more complex future missions such as searching for useable resources, building up a seismic network to understand the Moon's internal structure, and studying the lunar mineralogy and chemistry to understand the Moon's origins," explained NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration, Steve Clarke.
The space agency also hopes that the selected instruments and technologies will be of use during future missions, including robotic and manned missions to the surface of Mars. Selected technologies can use the surface of the Moon as a "testbed" for Mars, according to the press release.
NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program
NASA will be procuring flights for the selected payloads through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. Speaking at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight on Oct. 10, Clarke revealed that they plan to award the first contract/s by December.
The Commercial Lunar Payload Services intends to award multiple contracts over the next decade. The submission period has ended earlier this month.