June 2, NASA issued a request for information regarding a robotic lunar lander. NASA appears to be chomping at the bit for funding. NASA’s proposed lander is expected to provide for both anticipated public and commercial uses.
“U.S. industry is flourishing with innovative ideas based on NASA’s pioneering work to explore space, including low-Earth orbit and the moon,” said NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations William Gerstenmaier in a statement.
Gerstenmaier continued, “As NASA aims to expand human presence in the solar system through missions to an asteroid and Mars, hundreds of new technologies and experiments aboard the International Space Station are giving humans the tools we need to explore the unknown. New robotic commercial capabilities on the moon could extend that research in important ways, just as NASA expertise could help advance commercial endeavors to reach the moon.”
NASA does not anticipate the cooperation of industry partners. This is despite past collaboration in mutual areas of private and public benefit. NASA has, however, achieved advances in common science objectives from joint cooperation in such common efforts. This type of collaboration between NASA and private industry has resulted in numerous technological advances in the past.
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said, “We see the transformative effects of the Space Economy all around us through numerous technologies and life-saving capabilities. We see the Space Economy in the lives saved when advanced breast cancer screening catches tumors in time for treatment, or when a heart defibrillator restores the proper rhythm of a patient’s heart.”
NASA may offer the use of their test facilities and other resources, at no cost, to potential industry partners as an incentive to cooperation. Space contractor Moon Express, or Moon Ex, has already been employed to provide data integral to the development of a robotic lunar lander.
According to Moon Ex, “In 2010 Moon Express was selected by NASA for its $30M Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data (ILDD) program. The ILDD contract is for the purchase of technical data resulting from industry efforts to develop vehicle capabilities and demonstrate end-to-end robotic lunar landing missions. The data from these contracts will inform NASA in the development of future human and robotic lander vehicles and exploration systems.”
The development of a commercially-based lunar lander in partnership with NASA is believed by the agency capable of stimulating cost-effective capabilities related to lunar exploration. These services would enable the ability to land small to medium-class payloads on the moon involving less expansive capital investitures. Moon Ex, a member of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, also appears confident they can make commercial interests in lunar exploration viable.