Pittsburgh, PA – Astrobotic applauds Chairman Jerry Moran (R-KS), Ranking Member Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and the Senate Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee for fully funding NASA’s proposed Lunar Discovery and Exploration program in SMD and its Advanced Cislunar and Surface Capabilities program within HEOMD. This program will enable NASA to capitalize on investments made through the Lunar CATALYST program over the past four years and ensure American access to the lunar surface for the first time since Apollo 17, nearly 50 years ago.
“This is great news for the lunar community and the nation. By providing full funding for these accounts, both Houses of Congress have agreed to prioritize lunar exploration and support NASA’s strategic goal of returning to the Moon in the near-term – and this time to stay. Robotic lunar landers, like those we are building at Astrobotic and launching on the ULA Atlas V, are the key to low-cost access to the surface of our closest celestial neighbor. We are excited to have a chance for the Rust Belt to lead America back to the Moon,” said Astrobotic CEO John Thornton.
The Committee report states that the Lunar Discovery and Exploration program “will provide science payloads and instruments for Lunar Lander missions, like those developed in partnership with NASA's Lunar CATALYST program. These small robotic missions, starting in 2020, intend to provide NASA with access to the lunar surface for the first time in nearly 50 years and allow for affordable commercial procurement of a variety of science and exploration payloads to prepare for future science and crewed Exploration Missions. This program supports a regular cadence of at least one robotic mission to the lunar surface per year using U.S.-built Lunar Landers”.
Of the Advanced Cislunar and Surface Capabilities program, the Committee noted that as “NASA embarks on a return to the Moon as part of its larger human exploration strategy, the need for the development of a range of lander technologies to support such missions is critical. Small and medium- sized landers will be needed for exploration activities while building up to larger landers and eventually human ascent vehicles.”
Funding for the Lunar Discovery and Exploration program will enable NASA to partner with industry to put critical instruments and sensors on upcoming small robotic lander missions that re-establish American access to the Moon for the first time in 40-years. At the same time, the Advanced Cislunar and Surface Capabilities funding will build on the Lunar CATALYST program and fund the evolution of smaller landers into mid- and large-class lunar landers for larger robotic and eventual crewed missions to the lunar surface. Combined, these programs support NASA’s stated goals of using small robotic landers to gain near-term access to the Moon to provide the proving ground for future deep space exploration efforts, lay the groundwork for a lasting presence on the Moon, and support basic science efforts including missions from the Lunar Orbiting Platform-Gateway.
As indicated in a letter to the appropriations committees with over 70 lunar scientists earlier this year, these resources paired with new delivery capabilities and renewed political will to explore the Moon have energized the science community. Provision of payloads and selection of service providers will be executed under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, which the agency outlined via a draft Request for Proposals at an Industry Day in May 2018. The Advanced Exploration Systems office within HEOMD is also moving forward with plans for development of medium lander capabilities. As the busy summer legislative period begins, Thornton added, “Astrobotic looks forward to the successful completion of the annual spending bills that will allow NASA to move forward with selection of service-providers, and begin acquisition of science and exploration payloads for near-term missions.”
Astrobotic Technology, Inc. is a lunar logistics company that delivers payloads to the Moon for companies, governments, universities, non-profits, and individuals. The company’s spacecraft accommodates multiple customer payloads on a single flight, offering flexibility at an industry-defining low price of $1.2 million per kilogram. Astrobotic is an official partner with NASA through the Lunar CATALYST program, has 26 prior and ongoing NASA contracts, a commercial partnership with Airbus DS, a corporate sponsorship with DHL, 11 deals for its first mission to the Moon, and 130 customer payloads in the pipeline for upcoming missions. Astrobotic was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA.