Although it’s not exactly clear if NASA will hit its 2024 timeline for returning humans to the moon under the new presidential administration, NASA is moving forward with technologies required for the moon mission. NASA has announced that it has awarded Firefly Aerospace approximately $93.3 million to deliver a suite of 10 science investigations and technology demonstrations to the moon in 2023. The mission will deliver the technology to Mare Crisium, a low highflying basin on the Moon’s nearside.
The investigations and technology demos sent to the moon by Firefly Aerospace will investigate various lunar surface conditions and resources. NASA says the investigations will help prepare for human missions to the surface of the moon. The award was granted as part of the Commercial Payload Services initiative, which is a program where NASA secures the services of commercial partners to quickly put science and technology payloads on the moon.
Firefly Aerospace will be responsible for end-to-end delivery services, including payload integration, launch from Earth, landing on the moon, and mission operations. NASA notes that this award is the sixth granted for lunar surface delivery under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative. The award is the first granted to Firefly Aerospace, which would provide the lunar delivery service using its Blue Ghost Lander.
The company operates a facility in Cedar Park, Texas, which houses NASA and any non-NASA payloads. The facility will also service the mission operations center for delivery in 2023. The basin where the payload will be delivered is over 300-miles wide, and instruments will gather data providing insight into the regolith on the surface of the moon.
NASA wants to know the properties, geophysical characteristics, and interaction of solar wind and Earth’s magnetic field with the lunar regolith. The total payload is expected to be 207 pounds and includes ten different experiments and payloads.