NASA to select lunar terrain vehicle for Artemis missions: Watch live

NASA to select lunar terrain vehicle for Artemis missions: Watch live
NASA to select lunar terrain vehicle for Artemis missions: Watch live

NASA will announce Wednesday the companies that will design the lunar terrain vehicle for future Artemis moon missions. Here’s how to watch:

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Artemis astronauts announced as NASA inches closer to moon mission

Five decades after NASA’s last manned lunar mission, its Artemis program seeks to establish a presence on the moon to prepare for missions to Mars.

Scott L. Hall, USA TODAY

For the first time in five decades, American astronauts are on the cusp of returning to the moon.

NASA’s Artemis missions, the first lunar program since the Apollo era, aims to send astronauts back to the moon ahead of the larger goal of one day reaching Mars. And when the day comes in about two years that those intrepid explorers make it to the lunar surface, they’ll need a vehicle that can help them navigate the celestial body’s crater-pocked terrain.

NASA will reveal the companies that will be involved in designing that vehicle during a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

The announcement will be widely available for the public to view. Here’s how to watch, and what to know about the historic Artemis lunar missions ahead.

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Why NASA needs a lunar terrain vehicle

NASA began seeking proposals in May for a next-generation lunar terrain vehicle (LTV) to help astronauts traverse and transport cargo across the moon’s unexplored south polar region during upcoming Artemis missions.

The vehicle, which would be used for crewed operations beginning with Artemis V in 2029, is intended to be a cross between an Apollo-era lunar rover and an uncrewed Mars rover like Perseverance or Curiosity, NASA said. Giving the vehicle robotic, remote operation capabilities will allow for scientific tests and exploration to continue even when astronauts are not present on the moon, according to NASA.

NASA had asked companies to create proposed designs that accommodate two suited astronauts and include a robotic arm or other mechanism. The vehicle will also need to be able to survive the extreme temperatures of the lunar south pole, a region where water ice is thought to be abundant.

Water ice in the region would not only help sustain astronauts on the surface, but it also would be a source of hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel as NASA looks ahead to missions to Mars.

“We want to leverage industry’s knowledge and innovation, combined with NASA’s history of successfully operating rovers, to make the best possible surface rover for our astronaut crews and scientific researchers,” Lara Kearney, manager of NASA’s Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility program, previously said in a statement.

How to watch NASA’s lunar vehicle announcement

The televised event will take place at 4 pm EST Wednesday at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The news conference will air live on NASA+, NASA Television, the NASA app, and the US space agency’s website.

A live stream of the event will also be available on NASA’s official YouTube channel.

Watch it here:

Astronauts will return to moon as part of Artemis missions

In previous years, NASA and space agencies in other nations have once again set their sights on the moon in a renewed interest in reaching the lunar surface.

For the United States, American astronauts have not set foot on the moon since the last Apollo mission in 1972. NASA’s Artemis program hopes to get the nation back to the moon to establish a base of operations ahead of crewed trips to Mars.

NASA had intended to launch its Artemis II astronauts into orbit by the end of the year on a 10-day trip circumnavigating the moon, ahead of a moon landing itself a year later for Artemis III. But the Artemis program missions have since been delayed by at least a year after NASA encountered a slew of issues, including a battery flaw on the vehicle that will ferry astronauts to the moon.

In the meantime, preparations have continued to ensure the program stays on track.

In February, Houston-based Intuitive Machines became the first private company to ever land an uncrewed spacecraft on the moon’s surface. NASA, which was the primary customer for the mission, paid a hefty sum to have a payload of scientific instruments included aboard the lander to collect data that will help the agency prepare for its own lunar missions.

And in mid-March, SpaceX conducted its most successful test yet of the Starship rocket that will one day ferry US astronauts to the moon’s surface. NASA had awarded the company a $2.9 billion contract in 2021 to develop the first commercial human lander for its Artemis III mission.

Eric Lagatta covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Reach him at [email protected]

 
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