NASA looks for payloads made for the moon

iSpace lander
An artist’s conception shows ispace’s lander descending to the lunar surface. (ispace Illustration)

NASA is following up on its plan to purchase rides on commercial lunar landers by soliciting ideas for the scientific and technological payloads to put on them.

Those payloads could be flying to the moon as early as next year, NASA said today in its announcement of a program known as Lunar Surface Instrument and Technology Payloads. Somewhere between $24 million and $36 million would be available for the first round of payloads, with eight to 12 payloads expected to be selected.

“We are looking for ways to not only conduct lunar science but to also use the moon as a science platform to look back at the Earth, observe the sun, or view the vast universe,” said Steve Clarke, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

Early science objectives could include monitoring heat flow within the moon’s interior, characterizing the solar wind and the vanishingly thin lunar atmosphere, and detecting and analyzing dust.

Technological payloads would take the form of instruments or systems that would facilitate future crewed and robotic missions to explore the moon and Mars, Clarke said.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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