NASA is looking for Lunar Rovers for its Artemis Program

With the continued goal of crewed landings on the Moon in 2024, NASA is in need of more flight hardware for lunar exploration. The next big part will be a rover, NASA put out a request for information regarding proposed Artemis rovers.

Last Monday, NASA put out a request for information, inquiring American companies for information regarding cooperation in creating lunar rovers for planned Artemis moon missions.  The proposed rovers are required to meet NASA’s standards and objectives for a minimum of 10 years of service on the lunar surface.  These objectives are built around a planned Artemis base camp on the lunar south pole.  

Although NASA’s request is largely open-ended, the lunar terrain vehicles (LTV) would have to satisfy a few specific criteria.  First, the LTV would need to be capable of carrying two astronauts in their EVA suits. Moreover, the rover would need to be unenclosed, likely for safety and weight reasons—so nothing like the concept Mars rover NASA placed on the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. This would also exclude Tesla’s Cybertruck from entering the bidding unless it was heavily modified.

Concept art of a Tesla lunar Cybertruck. Credit: charlieautomotive

Since NASA plans to use the LTV over a wide array of Artemis missions over the course of a decade, the rover needs to be able to withstand the extreme temperatures of the lunar surface and keep a high failure tolerance. The Artemis missions plan to operate with a focus on the lunar south pole, so rover designers must keep this in mind.  This includes only two extended lunar nights per Earth year at the expected area of operation for Artemis.

Example of the Apollo era lunar rovers that flew to the Moon 3 on Apollo 15, 16, and 17. Credit: NASA

The request for information (ROI) asks through what means companies would be willing to contract with NASA. There are two paths outlined by NASA that LTV providers could take.  One option is that NASA could purchase the LTV completely, and it would be owned by them.  The other option is a service-based approach where the rover would be owned by the company, but they would be required to “provide the full suite of services and equipment required to perform all activities and operations necessary to enable 10 years of LTV operation on the lunar surface.” Responses to the request for information include a one-page-summary outlined by the RFI, as well as other information. To be considered, potential LTV providers must submit these documents by October 1st.

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