NASA has revealed a concept of what a future Moon lander might look like, as it aims to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024.
The American space agency has dubbed the spacecraft a “pallet lander concept” which would be used to deliver a 300-kilogram rover and payload for exploring the polar regions of the Moon.
In a technical paper explaining its work, NASA says the mid-sized lander was designed to be simple and affordable – though it admits that the lander is not intended to survive the lunar night.
It would travel aboard a commercial launch vehicle in order to reach the Moon.
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“This lander was designed with simplicity in mind to deliver a 300-kilogram rover to a lunar pole,” said Logan Kennedy, the project’s lead systems engineer.
“We used single string systems, minimal mechanisms and existing technology to reduce complexity, though advancements in precision landing were planned to avoid hazards and to benefit rover operations.
“We keep the rover alive through transit and landing so it can go do its job.
“As robotic lunar landers grow to accommodate larger payloads, simple but high-performing landers with a contiguous payload volume will be needed.
“This concept was developed by a diverse team of people over many years and meets that need.
“We hope that other lander designers can benefit from our work.”
The move comes as the space agency races to meet an accelerated return to the Moon, which US president Donald Trump’s administration has set for 2024.
NASA wants to establish a “sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028” in a bid to discover new scientific discoveries and demonstrate new technological advancements, with the help of private companies to build a lunar economy.