NASA has announced their picks for three commercial landing service providers that will carry their payloads to the moon for the Artemis program.
NASA's New Lunar Partners
According to a news release from the space agency, NASA's selections are Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines, and Orbit Beyond.
All three will deliver potential payloads that will include instruments projected to conduct lunar science, pinpoint lander position, measure the lunar radiation environment, assess the effects of lander and astronaut activity on the moon, and assist with navigation precision.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine called their selection a "huge step forward" for their plans for the Artemis lunar missions.
"Next year, our initial science and technology research will be on the lunar surface, which will help support sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon in five years," said Bridenstine. "Investing in these commercial landing services also is another strong step to build a commercial space economy beyond low-Earth orbit."
The 3 Commercial Landing Service Providers
Each of NASA's new partners proposed flying specific instruments to the moon.
Astrobiotic, a company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, proposed to fly up to 14 payloads to the moon's Lacus Mortis crater by July 2021. They were awarded $79.5 million by NASA.
The space agency awarded another $77 million to Intuitive Machines, which has headquarters in Houston, Texas. By July 2021, the company proposed to fly as many as five payloads to the mysterious dark spot on the moon known as Oceanus Procellarum.
Finally, Orbit Beyond in Edison, New Jersey proposed to bring up to four payloads to the lava plain Mare Imbrium by September 2020. NASA awarded the company $97 million.
The exact payloads that each company will carry has yet to be decided, but the agency expects it to be revealed by the summer of 2019.
"These landers are just the beginning of exciting commercial partnerships that will bring us closer to solving the many scientific mysteries of our Moon, our solar system, and beyond," explained Thomas Zurbuchen, who is the associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "What we learn will not only change our view of the universe, but also prepare our human missions to the Moon and eventually Mars."
As part of the Artemis program, NASA is planning to send astronauts — including the first ever woman — to the moon by 2024. Following a successful manned mission, the space agency will then establish a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028.