With the Artemis programme's goal of landing the next man and first woman in the moon by the year 2024, NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has sent out a call to action for industry leaders and experts in various fields concerning mobility. We're pretty sure that everyone knows that launching a rocket and landing on the moon to embark on an expedition is no small feat, and the Artemis programme is set to be the biggest and most ambitious moon expedition yet, relying on robotics and human-class lunar rovers to do most of the heavy lifting. NASA has currently issued two Requests for Information (RFI), seeking to strengthen "the emerging American market of lunar transportation capability by engaging the terrestrial vehicle and robotic communities."
In the past, each Apollo mission actually grew in the number of miles explored. 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 maximise the science return of those missions. The Artemis programme wants to go even further, exploring and conducting experiments somewhere where humans have never been before: the lunar South Pole.
A more advanced lunar terrain vehicle (LTV) will need to be human-rated (meaning humans can operate it), unpressurized (an open cabin), and be equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and communications gear. Fully-autonomous robots will also be needed to ferry gear across terrain that astronauts may or may not want to traverse during the expedition, bringing vital pieces of equipment or resources back for study.
“The most we can expect the crew to walk while wearing their spacesuits is about a half-mile,” said Marshall Smith, director of human lunar exploration programmes in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. “If we can place a rover near a landing site before crew arrives, the potential for scientific return on those first missions will grow exponentially.”