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Crowdsourcing: NASA Wants Ideas for Its Lunar Mission

Nov 03, 2016 06:38 AM EDT

Mankind had set foot on the moon and NASA is preparing for another lunar mission in the coming years. But in order to make it as memorable and as the last one, the agency is crowdsourcing for information on instruments, technologies and other helpful tools that can be sent to the surface of the moon.

NASA sent a request calling out for concepts that can potentially be sent to the surface of the moon as small scientific payloads. The target mission could be between 2017 and 2020. Chosen instruments and scientific payloads will be sent to the moon using lunar landers that are currently being built by commercial space flight companies.

"Multiple US companies are developing robotic lunar landing capabilities and have expressed plans to provide commercial cargo delivery services to the Moon in the near future," a NASA official said in a statement. "Information on lunar payloads that could be launched as early as 2017 would be valuable to NASA as it works to understand the potential role of the Moon in future exploration activities," the official added.

This is a good opportunity for developers and private spaceflight companies to land an agreement with NASA who rarely sends out requests every year to bring scientific payloads off Earth, this time specifically to the surface of the moon.

This came as a surprise since, because like most space agencies and other private space industries; NASA is focused on sending humans to the red planet with its 'Journey to Mars' mission in 2030.

However, recent updates show that NASA, like the European Space Agency (ESA,) has its eyes on the moon. The Earth's satellite is considered as a good training ground for the mission to Mars. The moon might be used for the trial of space habitats. For the moon, habitats that can operate around the satellite are called cislunar space. Reports say that these cislunar habitats can potentially be considered to help transport human crew to the red planet.

Because of this, the agency is now, more than ever, interested in fully understanding the lunar environment as this will also pave the way for future deep space explorations. The moon might also provide ample resources for space travel that can provide materials to the mission such as water and other components for fuel.

"Though we have gathered a great deal of information over the decades about the Moon from the earliest robotic probes, from the Apollo missions, and more recently from spacecraft ... there is still much more that we need to learn," William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator involved with human exploration and operations, said in an interview.

However, despite the plea, NASA clears that it is currently looking for just the information and that the agency hasn't decided yet if it will be holding a competition for the payloads. The decision will depend on the submission of information that will be gathered by the agency.


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