NASA picks Moon car developers for Artemis mission

The space agency has selected three companies to create a lunar terrain vehicle (LTV) that Artemis astronauts will drive around the Earth satellite’s South Pole.

NASA awarded the opportunity to develop the Moon car to Intuitive Machines, Lunar Outpost, and Venturi Astrolab. Astronauts will use the vehicle during NASA’s Artemis mission, launched to kick start long-term human exploration of the Moon.

“This vehicle will greatly increase our astronauts’ ability to explore and conduct science on the lunar surface while also serving as a science platform between crewed missions,” Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said.

NASA expects to begin using the LTV during Artemis V, or the fifth launch of the program. The agency insists that the maximum it‘s going to spend to develop the vehicle stands at $4.6 billion for all three companies.

Lunar Outpos
Lunar Outpost's LTV proposal. Image by Lunar Outpost.

Artemis astronauts will need the vehicle to traverse extreme conditions in the Moon’s South Pole. The LTV will have to be equipped with advanced tech for power management, autonomous driving, “state of the art” comms, and navigation.

Unlike NASA‘s previous moon rovers, the new LTV will also serve as a remotely controlled science lab, which NASA will be able to use between Artemis missions. Interestingly, the agency said that the LTV‘s service provider will have the ability “to use their LTV for commercial lunar surface activities unrelated to NASA missions.”

“We will use the LTV to travel to locations we might not otherwise be able to reach on foot, increasing our ability to explore and make new scientific discoveries,” said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist in the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate at NASA HQ. “With the Artemis crewed missions, and during remote operations when there is not a crew on the surface, we are enabling science and discovery on the Moon year-round.”

Astrolab's LTV proposal. Image by Astrolab.

Last year, NASA unveiled the spacesuit design for the Artemis mission. Axiom Space, a private Houston-based company, was tasked by NASA to create spacesuits for its upcoming missions to the Moon.

Artemis missions are expected to establish a long-term human presence on the Moon. According to NASA, the agency aims to send astronauts – including the first woman, first person of color, and its first international partner astronaut – to explore the Moon for scientific, technological, and economic benefits and to build the foundation for crewed missions to Mars.

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