Today the two defense contractors announced they will team up to develop the next lunar rover for NASA’s Artemis program.
NASA’s Artemis program is set to launch the next group of astronauts to the lunar surface since the completion of the Apollo program. This time around it will be different, instead of showing off to the world it can be done we will go back sustainably and for good. With the power of commercializing as many aspects of the program, NASA will operate more as a customer rather than the owner/operator of the vehicles.
Both GM and Lockheed Martin have extensive history working with NASA. GM built the original lunar rover that was used on Apollo missions 15-17. Lockheed Martin on the other hand has been building spacecraft for NASA for decades. Their biggest part of the Artemis program being the construction of NASA’s Orion space capsule.
“This alliance brings together powerhouse innovation from both companies to make a transformative class of vehicles. Surface mobility is critical to enable and sustain long-term exploration of the lunar surface. These next-generation rovers will dramatically extend the range of astronauts as they perform high-priority science investigation on the Moon that will ultimately impact humanity’s understanding of our place in the solar system.”
Rick Ambrose, executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Space
The rover will use the battery technology developed by GM for their electric vehicles. Additionally, GM will use autonomous driving features on the rover, with the goal of making the rover safer and more efficient.
“General Motors made history by applying advanced technologies and engineering to support the Lunar Rover Vehicle that the Apollo 15 astronauts drove on the Moon. Working together with Lockheed Martin and their deep-space exploration expertise, we plan to support American astronauts on the Moon once again.”
Alan Wexler, senior vice president of Innovation and Growth at General Motors
Current state of NASA’s Artemis program
Currently, NASA’s first SLS rocket is being assembled inside Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building. The Core Stage was the final part that was needed to begin and that arrive last month on NASA’s Pegasus barge.
The other major part of the lunar program, the Human Landing System, is in a little bit more of a weird state. After both Blue Origin and Dynetics protested SpaceX’s Starship win of the contract, Congress is stepping in to ensure more funding is given to the program so it can choose two winners. It has gotten more heated after Blue Origin and SpaceX both distributed letters to congressmen on the Hill stating why they should or should not support the upcoming NASA Authorization Act. More fuel was added to the fire when Senator Bernie Sanders (D. VT) came out against the act calling the latest legislation a bailout for billionaire owner of Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos. He continued on to express his disapproval of private space ventures having any part in the Artemis program, calling out Bezos and Elon Musk by name, saying that it should be handled like the Apollo program was and not with the current style of NASA being a customer of private companies.
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