The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has revealed a concept design that can carry a rover onto the Moon’s surface. This robotic ‘pallet lander’ concept can carry gears and rover of weight up to 300 kg. The concept of the lander, which is a sort of space pallet, is dead simple. As it is still a concept, no name has been assigned to it. So, as of now, space pallet will do. It is basically a space-faring delivery truck that will help NASA to uncover new scientific discoveries. The concept design emerged during studies around the VIPER mission. The concept pallet would liftoff atop a commercial launch vehicle like Falcon 9 rocket. The vehicle would take it into a trans-lunar injection trajectory. A few days later, the concept space pallet would perform the required maneuvers. It will involve landing site selection, attitude control, braking and a soft touchdown with its solar panels facing the sun.
After landing on the surface, the lander will decide its own course of action for the next couple of hours. It would take images of the lunar surface and characterize its surroundings for researchers on Earth. After spending around 8 hours, it would shut down permanently. Yes, it has not been designed to survive the lunar night. Weeks-long nights on Moon are generally freezing and airless cold. It is very expensive to provide the required power and heating infrastructure that helps lander survive in such an atmosphere. However, any kind of presence on the surface is a powerful resource.
There are not many details about the kind of equipment that will be onboard. The US space agency is working closely with commercial partners to eventually transport science and technology payloads to the lunar surface. Though the concept space pallet is only for rover payloads, researchers could work upon this idea for the future human lander. NASA is aiming to explore the moon as much as possible and this why it is planning to send humans by 2028.
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