NASA to Industry: Send Ideas for Lunar Rovers

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From NASA

Feb. 6, 2020

Concept image showing the backseat view in a Lunar Terrain Vehicle.

Concept image showing the backseat view in a Lunar Terrain Vehicle. Credits: NASA

As NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program mounts toward a robust decade of modern science, research, and human exploration at the Moon, the agency is asking American companies to think about how to get around on the lunar surface.

NASA issued two separate Requests for Information (RFI) seeking industry approaches for development of robotic mobility systems and human-class lunar rovers. With these RFIs, NASA seeks to foster an emerging American market of lunar transportation capability by engaging the terrestrial vehicle and robotic communities.

First, the space agency is asking for concepts on robotic mobility systems to transport instruments across the lunar surface, conducting critical scientific research across wide areas of terrain, including areas where humans may not explore.

“As we return to the Moon with Artemis, we’re seeking new and innovative approaches that allow us to operate robotically anywhere on the lunar surface and explore more of our nearest neighbor than ever before,” said Steve Clarke, deputy associate administrator for exploration, Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We are turning to industry to offer us exciting approaches to leverage existing systems here on Earth—including law enforcement, military, or recreational vehicles—that could be modified for use in space to enhance our mobility architecture.”

To expand the exploration footprints of the first woman and next man on the Moon, NASA also is seeking industry feedback on relevant state-of-the-art commercial technologies and acquisition strategies for a new lunar terrain vehicle or LTV. The LTV will be a human-rated, unpressurized (unenclosed) rover that will be used to help astronauts explore and conduct experiments somewhere humans have never been before: the lunar South Pole.

“The most we can expect crew to walk while wearing their spacesuits is about a half-mile,” said Marshall Smith, director of human lunar exploration programs in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. “If we can place a rover near a landing site before crew arrive, the potential for scientific return on those first missions will grow exponentially.”

The proof is in the past. The total areas explored for Apollo astronauts grew from a little over half a mile during Apollo 11, to 15 miles during Apollos 15-17. With the Lunar Roving Vehicle, astronauts were able to explore much more diverse geological features to maximize the science return of those missions.

“We also want to hear from industry leaders in all-terrain vehicles, electric vehicles, and more—this is not exclusive to the space industry,” notes Smith. “We want our rovers on the Moon to draw on, and spur, innovations in electric vehicle energy storage and management, autonomous driving, and extreme environment resistance.”

Clarke added, “Companies of all sizes are already partnering with us to deliver payloads to the lunar surface through our Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. We look forward to what industry shares with us as we consider early ideas on how humanity will explore the Moon robotically and with crew in the coming years.”

Increasing mobility on the Moon is the latest step to strengthen NASA’s Artemis program, where the agency will use the Moon to test new systems and technologies before sending crew to Mars in the 2030s. The agency will soon select new providers to design and develop a Human Landing System as well as new logistics suppliers for the Gateway in lunar orbit. And, as Clarke mentioned, NASA is continuing to accelerate its scientific work ahead of a human return, working with a pool of 14 companies on contract to bid on commercial Moon deliveries. Two of those providers, Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines, will deliver the first sets of science instruments and technology development payloads to the lunar surface next year.

The RFIs are to inform strategic planning, inviting industry to provide information to help shape the evolution of the Artemis mobility architecture to achieve the greatest scientific and exploration value.

Responses to the SMD RFI are due March 6, and responses to the HEOMD RFI are due Feb. 26. NASA will host a virtual industry forum Feb. 12, to explain the strategy and answer questions from potential responders. Connection details for the virtual industry forum can be found in the RFIs.

The LTV RFI is available here:

https://beta.sam.gov/opp/46cd587dcba34a8e96792f26d3c7a8d8/view

The robotic mobility systems RFI is available here:

https://beta.sam.gov/opp/14d4f43f22d94fd7b003e98b8e253c95/view?keywords=NASA&sort=-modifiedDate&index=&is_active=true&page=1

For more information about NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/artemisprogram

Last Updated: Feb. 6, 2020

Editor: Erin Mahoney

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40 thoughts on “NASA to Industry: Send Ideas for Lunar Rovers

      • We NEED to go back to the moon!
        The first time there allowed us to drive innovation and invention to attain the goal of President Kennedy. To put a man on the Moon and safely return him to Earth in a 10 year period required invention and innovation.
        Perhaps we’ll see more than Tang this time

    • The only reason America bothered to go into space in the first place was that the Soviets went there first. With the Soviet Union out of the picture, that motivation is gone.

      Now we have China and India interested in going to the Moon and Mars. link Game on dude!

    • Hoppers will be used for longer transport mission like helicopters on earth. But kangaroo type hoppers while somewhat more energy efficient than rollers require either a well known landing surface or an extremely fast reaction and balance algorithms. Rollers can move more slowly and adjust their footprint while moving thereby providing suitable load bearing so as not to get stuck in the soft regolith as happened during Apollo.
      Dealing with the dust will IMHO will be the most challenging.

  1. “..the agency is asking American companies to think about how to get around on the lunar surface….”

    Are they really only asking American companies, or can other countries with good ideas also put them forward?

    • One needs to understand what NASA means when it sends out an RFI.
      It really means that NASA is looking for ideas to steal.
      In 2008 my team submitted a response to an RFI for the next lunar mission system architecture ( all the needed vehicles and sizing) only to have NASA announce all the various ideas their various centers had invented. It seems JPL had invented our very design, amazingly without changing any of our acronyms.

  2. Caterpillar Corp had damned well better enter this one. Putting a nice crescent with craters over the cAt logo would be so much better than a feather.

    • Reminiscent of the landing vehicles in Space 1999
      Though a Pressurized enclosed vehicle might make more sense and extend travel distances over pressurized suit travel in an open vehicle.

  3. One Earth defense strategy is not burdened with warhead concepts or frivolous accessories. It makes use of our Cold War and NASA expertise but contains no actual warhead. It is directly tied to Apollo and gaining a permanent foothold on the Moon.

    To divert or destroy a threatening object with any assurance, you must do to it what it is trying to do to you, first. Kinetically impact it by sending an armada of smart heavy things to meet it soonest with as much multiplicity, precision, combined mass and anger, as possible. Each ‘thing’ is a rocket launched from a battery on the Moon, carrying a heavy mass-payload of simple lunar dust. Each must operate alone, or swarm intelligently to avoid others or meet objectives such as targeting a part of the object (if that is even possible) or flying in formation to coordinate moment of contact.

    But here’s the key: there must be hundreds, even thousands of them… each loaded with ballast and ready to fly at a moment’s notice, receive a mission en route. The armada must form waves, each salvo capable of re-assessing last-minute objectives without delay of communication with base… such as a ‘re-swarm’ to target individual fragments of an object as it splits.

    […] When I was young the KT Layer was an unnoticed oddity of the landscape. Paleontology was host to a panoply of gradual extinction theories. Only since the time of Apollo evidence of catastrophe has mounted, and many recoiled at the thought that mass extinction and complete transformation of our world could occur in a single afternoon. As it became known as the KT Boundary, above which no dinosaur fossils are found, the why should have galvanized us to action. There would be no need to find the actual crater or stressed ejecta worldwide, but we found those also.

    […] Putting up another satellite to lovingly gaze at Earth… going to Mars for the hell of it… even sending out great science missions to the budgetary or time exclusion of delivering true Earth defense capability… is time squandered. A fool’s game. The way I see it, the moment we learned we were under existential threat, as parents the responsible thing to do was divert the necessary resources to answer the threat. This should even have ‘preempted’ the Cold War. Our adversaries should be ashamed also.

    ~2018 letter to David F. Goldfein, Chief of Staff, USAF

    • “Kinetically impact it by sending an armada of smart heavy things to meet it soonest with as much multiplicity, precision, combined mass and anger, as possible. Each ‘thing’ is a rocket launched from a battery on the Moon, carrying a heavy mass-payload of simple lunar dust.”

      Hocus Locus, whoever composed that letter sent to David Goldfein, USAF, had no concept of the response time of that Lunar-based defense concept versus that needed for practical defense of the US.

      The flight time for a ballistic missile from launch to impact at any point on Earth is less than 90 minutes. That means that Lunar-based defensive missiles would need to cover the maximum Earth-Moon separation distance (252,088 miles) in less than 90 minutes. The actual trajectory would be on an arc, not a straight line, so its path would be longer that of the the straight-line straight distance. If we just simply and conservatively considered the straight line distance, the required average velocity would be around 168,000 km/hr.

      In comparison, the fastest terminal velocity (= velocity at propellant “burnout”) of any tactical missile is believed to be no faster than Mach 10 equivalent (~12,000 km/hr), not even 10% of that needed per above, simplified, conservative math. Even Earth escape velocity (40,270 km/hr) is less than 25% of that needed, per above.

      Some launched payloads have been boosted to much higher velocities than escape velocity, but only via benefit of gravity-assisted acceleration by swinging by other planetary bodies (planets and moons).

      For reference, the Apollo 11 astronauts initiated Earth-atmosphere re-entry procedures 44 hours after leaving lunar orbit.

  4. Seriously? It is the year 2020 and NASA does not know how to build a vehicle which can operate on the lunar surface? Who built the Mars Rovers? Why not ask them? It would appear they have a clue. Or perhaps that gang of wild-eyed rednecks down at Stennis? Bet they could turn out a vehicle which would be effective and affordable!

    • 2hotel9 – I see it differently: NASA isn’t saying they don’t know how to do it, they are saying that they are keen to benefit from other people’s ideas. To my mind, it is this openness to ideas that has been and still is a large factor in America’s success. The contrast with China, and before them the USSR, is striking. Some people look at China’s system and say it’s better than America’s because the government can just order things to happen – so things can be done much faster than in the US. But I see a more open system in the US, where people do things because they want to. It’s a bit more chaotic, things can take longer, it’s more difficult to predict how things will turn out, but in the end the country achieves more. It’s the difference between democracy and dictatorship. I’m a democrat (NB that’s a small d, definitely not a capital D!).

      • In the end, you don’t wind up with Jewelry manufactured with Cadmium or Toys containing Lead or useless items containing Asbestos Or cheaply made Solar Panels which spontaneously combust on your rooftop

      • My point still stands, NASA already has the cache of specific knowledge to do this. Does the current crop of braindead bureaucrats have the intelligence to effectively access all this knowledge? Very doubtful, they are totally focused on reaching out to islamic terrorists and stopping humans from destroying the climate, hence the sad cry for help from actual intelligent Americans who don’t have their collective heads up their a$$es like bureaucrats do.

  5. NASA is asking companies to not only provide Lunar rovers but also wants companies to provide transportation from the Earth to the Moon.

    Here’s another NASA Lunar objective, the Lunar “Gateway”, an objective that is absolutely necessary for our further exploration of the Earth/Moon/Mars system:

    https://www.nasa.gov/feature/questions-nasas-new-spaceship

    “NASA is looking at options for astronauts to shuttle between the Gateway and the Moon on reusable landers. Just like an airport here, spacecraft bound for the lunar surface or for Mars can use the Gateway to refuel or replace parts, and resupply things like food and oxygen without going home first. For months-long crew expeditions to the Gateway, this could allow multiple trips down to the lunar surface, and exploration of new locations across the Moon.”

    NASA needs to put out requests to build an orbital transfer vehicle permanently stationed in space, that has the capability to travel from the International Space Station to the Moon, and back. I think I prefer orbital transfer vehicles powered by steam, since the Moon has abundant water from which to make steam. 🙂

    And btw, I wouldn’t call a Lunar Orbiter a “spaceship”, although it technically is one. Of course, I suppose NASA is talking to children also with their explanation, so they make it a little simplified.

    Another question: Is it cheaper for numerous companies to launch from Earth and land on the Moon, or is it cheaper for companies to launch to the International Space Station in Low Earth Orbit, and then use an orbital transfer vehicle from there to tranport and land the cargo on the Moon?

    And, is it good to have only one way to get to the Moon? Probably not. Maybe we could have numerous orbital transfer vehicles docked at the International Space Station and they could all compete for the transportation business. Assuming it is cheaper to use an orbital transfer vehicle than it is to use a direct Earth-to-Moon launch.

    We don’t want monopolies in space development, that’s for sure.

    • What would you define as a space ship?
      A vehicle that carries crew, provides human life support that can travel in the vacuum of “outer space” might seem to be the most basic definition. True we distinguish the difference between an ocean liner and a dinghy but they are both boats.

      • “What would you define as a space ship?”

        I would describe a spaceship as a vehicle that travels from one place to another in space.

        I would describe a habitat module orbiting the Moon as a Lunar Orbiter.

      • We need an orbital transfer vehicle that can access all the Earth/Moon Lagrangian points. We might someday need to do a repair mission on the new James Webb telescope that will be located at L2. And I’m sure the Hubble could use an upgrade or two in the future, so we need a vehicle, combining a habitation module with a propulsion module, we can use all around the Earth/Moon system for various jobs.

        Humans are starting their move into space. Once we get established, we will never look back. It will be “outward and onward”. As it should be. It’s a natural evolution. So the human race is at a critical point in our history. Do we expand into the universe or do we not. I think our natural tendency is to expand. The only thing that would stop us is some global catastrophy happening before we get the human race well established in space.

        The next 50 years will be very exciting for space development providing we are free enough to follow that course.

        Now, the next question is what is government going to look like in space?

  6. Requests for Information (RFIs) are the classic US Government way of asking a company to provide the best of its ideas on a given subject, at no cost to the government, and without any obligation to not use that idea themselves (“in house”) or as part of future contract award to a competitor.

    Companies can try to submit “proprietary” ideas, but that is sometimes specifically prohibited in the RFI, and in any event it offers little actual protection against eventual use of such ideas given the slight “idea-tweaking” that is always available to Government personnel.

    I assert that 90% or more of RFI’s are responded to only for the reason of keeping “the customer” happy.

    Been there, done that.

  7. My short RFI response:

    (a) Put four or five GPS-equivalent satellites in orbit around the moon, (b) place an autonomous precision orbit tracking/calibration station on the lunar surface to communicate with these satellites, (c) use the currently best-developed fully autonomous driving software/electronics available from the automotive market, hardened against radiation and temperature swings at the lunar surface and adapted to use lunar maps, (d) upsize and update the Apollo era manned Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), and (e) load up the LRV with robotically-controlled experiments or astronauts, as desired. Done.

    No need to reinvent the wheel (pardon the pun).

    • A satellite-based high precision positioning system is not as easy as you suggest. You need 4 SV timing signals to calculate a 3 D fix. And the constellation of satellites has to be regularly updated via surface based master control site. You’d need at east 12, and probably more to cover the lunar polar regions adequately. ANd you’d have to have a master control station with a high precision atomic clock as well to keep all the satellite clock aligned.

      The US DoD runs the GPS constellation of about 32 satellites with ~24 active + 8 spares to provide whole Earth coverage. Even that coverage is much lower over the poles. A Master control station in Colorado keeps all the satellites clocks aligned and calibrated and several times daily it updates the ephemeris data on every satellite positions (data they transmit in the downlink location signal). Without this daily ground station maintenance, the location accuracy of the GPS constellation would rapidly degrade in a matter of days to many tens of meters and then to kilometers in a few weeks as satellites drift in orbit and their cesium clocks drift in time.

  8. The Censor Agents of Youtube have taken a huge portion of the good videos down showing all the errors of the moon landing. However there are more than ever of new Debunked Moon landing hoax videos left.. Of course to keep the story on the up and up.

    Here is one video that is not the one I saw and laughed my head off because this Asian Guy narrated a very close going over all the parts of the Lunar Module describing its build and what it was made out of.. Lots of aluminum foil.. It was worth the 29 minutes, however I can not find it of course.

    But this one video is close,, please really look at the module and try and convince yourself that this piece of junk actually was used to transfer the moon landers..

    • Craig, I believe that you posted to the wrong website . . . try conspiracy.com instead.

      BTW, the first use of 2D computer animation in a significant entertainment feature films was in 1973’s “Westworld”, and the first use of 3D computer graphics in a film was in its 1976 sequel “Futureworld”— source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_computer_animation_in_film_and_television .

      You may not aware of—or just choose to ignore—the facts that the first moon landing took place in 1969 and the last one, Apollo 16, occurred in 1972.

      • Sorry, typo . . . that last moon landing was Apollo 17, not Apollo 16, but the date is correct.

    • Ever put your hands on an actual Lunar Lander Module? There are a few around people can actually touch.A hint, the only “aluminum foil” on it is the reflective insulation layer covering sections of the exterior.

      • From https://www.quora.com/After-the-lunar-module-landed-on-the-moon-the-astronauts-removed-their-helmets-while-inside-This-means-the-module-was-pressurized-I-ve-heard-the-lunar-module-had-walls-the-thickness-of-aluminum-foil-My-question-is :

        The “walls the thickness of aluminum foil” notion traces back to a statement by Apollo 12 Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean, but his comment was not accurate. The actual thickness of the aluminum-alloy LM pressure vessel walls was at a minimum about 0.012″, and the thickness increased to about 0.055″ where the walls attached to the ribs which defined the LM’s structure. For comparison, the minimum thickness is closer to about three sheets of standard aluminum foil, or slightly under the thickness of a typical aluminum beverage can (which is usually about 0.015″). This was just the thinnest parts of the walls, of course; the portion of the cabin where the astronauts stood was considerably thicker. Keep in mind also that the LM was pressurized to only about 5 PSI (an aluminum can can withstand up to about 90 PSI!). The thinnest parts of the walls could still have easily been damaged by a carelessly swung tool or some such, but the astronauts were trained (and highly motivated!) not to do things that could damage the thin walls.

        • Aluminum, it is an amazing material. Over the years I have encountered many “we never went to the moon” yahoos and they are quite impervious to facts, and yet they believe there are aliens and flying saucers at Area 51 and that ships and airplanes vanish in the Bermuda Triangle. Thank you, leftist controlled public edumacation!

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