NASA’s autonomous lunar vehicle will be made by GM and Lockheed Martin
NASA is assembling a crack team of private companies to help it return humans to the Moon for the first time since 1972. After assigning SpaceX the task of the lunar landing, the agency is turning its attention to surface transportation. NASA has picked General Motors and regular defence contractor Lockheed Martin to develop the Artemis program’s lunar vehicles.
The overarching goal is to enable astronauts to travel further on the Moon than ever before. That’s not an easy ask when you’re dealing with rocky lunar terrain pocked with asteroid impact craters and dead volcanoes.
NASA’s checklist already dictated that the vehicles must be electric and support autonomous driving. Today, GM confirmed that’s exactly what it plans to deliver by leveraging the know-how from its Ultium battery system, which allows it to cram up to 24 cells in each module unit, and its self-driving prowess. The latter is tied to its autonomous driving subsidiary Cruise, which recently began testing its driverless fleet with Walmart back here on Earth.
GM was also a shoo-in after NASA declared that it would only work with US companies. (Musk’s Tesla was likely off the table after the agency brought on SpaceX.) The automotive giant is also no stranger to the aerospace sector, having worked on both the original Moon landing in 1969 and the electric Lunar Roving Vehicle used on Apollo’s 15-17 missions.
Lockheed, meanwhile, has already built the Orion crew module for Artemis I in line with its contract for six spacecraft missions, with the option to extend that to 12. One of those spacecraft will eventually carry the first woman and the next man to the Moon in 2024 as part of Artemis III.
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