The race to build a permanent lunar base is on, with NASA’s Artemis program leading the charge. The goal is to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon by building power generators, vehicles, and habitats. However, this ambitious plan requires overcoming significant technological challenges.
Neal Davis, lead systems engineer for the Lunar Terrain Vehicle at Dynetics, likens it to “the Super Bowl of engineering.” The company recently revealed its prototype design for a lunar rover at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.
NASA Associate Administrator Jim Free stated that it won’t be until later Artemis missions that permanent habitation will be considered. The first planned landing (Artemis 3) won’t happen until later this decade, so habitat construction wouldn’t start before the 2030s.
Companies such as Crescent Space and Astrobotic are already looking ahead to the future lunar market. Crescent Space aims to become the Moon’s GPS and internet provider while Astrobotic is developing solar panels that must be placed vertically due to the south pole’s unique lighting conditions.
For scientific expeditions, NASA has entrusted industry partners with developing non-pressurized rovers capable of operating autonomously during astronaut-less sorties. Lockheed Martin partnered with General Motors, while Dynetics joined forces with Nascar for their prototypes.
The crew will need a place to call home once they arrive on the Moon. Texas-based company Icon was awarded a $57.2 million contract to develop 3D printing technology needed to build roads, landing strips and ultimately households using lunar soil as material. Other companies like Lockheed Martin are working on inflatable habitat concepts.
According to sources cited in Hindustan Times’ article “What will the Artemis moon base look like?” returning to the Moon with Artemis is meant as preparation for much more distant missions to Mars; “Whatever money we have to spend…we want to make those same systems applicable to going to Mars,” said Kirk Shireman, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Lunar Exploration Campaign. The goal is to establish a sustainable and permanent presence on the Moon that can lead to even more ambitious space exploration missions in the future.