Paving the way for humans on the Moon with lunar payloads

Congress’s ambitious Space Policy Directive-1 gave NASA a challenge: work with American companies to put our astronauts back on the Moon by 2024.

This is no small feat. Through the new Artemis program, NASA is approved to grant $2.6 billion in contracts to American companies over the next 10 years.

NASA is partnering with private companies to deliver essential payloads to the Moon. These payloads will contain instruments and advanced technology that will make a second manned mission to the Moon possible.

Learn more about the Artemis payload system and how it influences the future of interstellar travel.

Private partnerships and payloads

Three private companies will act as ferries for NASA, delivering instruments to the Moon’s surface as soon as September 2020.

Announced on May 31, 2019 by NASA, the three companies are Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines, and Orbit Beyond.

Although NASA plans to send humans to the Moon’s south pole in 2024, none of these companies will land near that site. It’s still early days for the payload program and companies want to be extra cautious.

For now, companies will focus on landing on the near side of the Moon, in its northern hemisphere. Only a Chinese lander mission has touched the far side of the Moon, which is a risky endeavor because of a delay in satellite communications.

Although these three companies are delivering to safe locations for now, they plan to refine their technology in the future to land anywhere on the Moon.

Landing is the most important part of the payload missions. That’s why the chosen payload sites are on flat surfaces inside the Moon’s craters. There’s a better chance of landing because the land is flatter, reducing the risk of a crash.

Astrobotic is set to deliver 14 payloads to the Lacus Mortis area of the Moon by July 2021. Intuitive Machine will deliver 5 payloads to Oceanus Procellarum, also by July 2021. Orbit Beyond will go to the Moon’s Mare Imbrium, a lava plain, by September 2020.

Lunar research before 2024

NASA requires so many payloads because of the instruments and components they need to deliver to the lunar surface.

Although NASA knows which instruments will be going to the Moon, it’s still in the process of determining which companies will deliver which payloads.

The goal of these payloads is to deliver instruments that facilitate robotic research and study of the Moon prior to 2024. NASA will use these instruments to study the Moon’s magnetic field, atmosphere, and composition.

Some of the instruments include:

  • SAMPLR: A probe that will take samples from the Moon with a robotic arm.
  • PlanetVAC: An instrument that will take soil samples.
  • RAC: The Regolith Adherence Characterization instrument will see how regolith on the Moon interacts with spacecraft.
  • LISTER: Will dig 7-10 feet into the Moon to analyze lunar dust.
  • LuSEE: An instrument measuring the Moon’s electromagnetic activity.

Looking at a bright future

The Artemis payload program will help NASA do more lunar landings with finesse. Aside from delivering essential tools, the payload program will collect data on how to do safer, better Moon landings. Thanks to advanced technology and privatization, humanity’s bright future is written in the stars.