How Pittsburgh Is Leading the U.S. Back to the Moon

It’s not easy to get from North Lincoln Avenue to the Lake of Death. North Lincoln Avenue is in Pittsburgh; the Lake of Death is on the moon—meaning there’s a tidy 385,000 km (over 239,000 mi.) between them. But before the end of the year, that gap should close—thanks to a modest company in a modest building just a third of a mile northwest of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Heinz Field, tucked humbly between a Wendy’s and a McDonald’s.

The building is the headquarters of Astrobotic, which—if all goes according to plan—will launch its Pittsburgh-made Peregrine spacecraft from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center in the fourth quarter of this year, landing it in the Lake of Death, high in the north lunar hemisphere. It would mark the first time the U.S. has put metal on the moon since the soft touchdown of Apollo 17, just shy of 50 years ago.
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The moon has been on NASA’s mind a lot lately. The space agency is promising that its Artemis program will have astronauts back on the lunar surface by the middle of this decade. Unlike the Apollo crews and their brief flags-and-footprints visits, however, the Artemis crews will ultimately be establishing a long-term presence at fixed lunar bases. But well-supplied bases don’t build and equip themselves—and they don’t come cheap, especially considering NASA’s always tight budget.

Enter the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. In 2018, the space agency established CLPS to outsource the delivery of cargo and rovers to the lunar surface to the private sector—much the way NASA’s commercial crew program outsourced the delivery of astronauts to the International Space Station to SpaceX and Boeing. The CLPS companies are contracted to build spacecraft that can do jobs as diverse as scouting for water ice deposits on the moon that …read more

Source:: Time – Science


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