Boulder, Colorado (AP) Land rover and moon landing spacecraft are expected to be launched in 2018, as the first manned mission to land on the moon in more than 100 years approaches, NASA officials said Thursday.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, named after the mythical lander used by the U.S. in the Apollo missions, is expected to launch atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket in 2018.NASA will make a decision on whether to award the mission a contract by May.
The spacecraft will land on an island called Pangaea in the Moon’s Pacific Ocean about 70 miles (120 kilometers) south of the lunar surface.
The lander, which is still under development, will be built and assembled on the lunar backside.
The mission is intended to demonstrate NASA’s ability to conduct a large-scale, long-duration mission on the Moon, according to a statement from the U,S.
NASA hopes the lunar landers will help pave the way for future human exploration.
The rover and the lander were part of a plan by the Apollo 11 astronauts to return to Earth safely on the night of Dec. 21, 1969, just two months after Apollo 11 commander Buzz Aldrin and lunar module pilot Gordon Cooper took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
In addition to Aldrin, Cooper and two other Apollo astronauts, Apollo 13 astronaut Eugene Cernan and Lunar Module Pilot Roger Chaffee were on board.NASA officials said that the landers and rover will have the capability to perform a number of different tasks, including analyzing the lunar landscape, collecting samples, conducting reconnaissance and conducting science.NASA’s Lunar Recycle Vehicle, which was launched to the moon on a Delta rocket in January 1972, will provide the lunar return mission with a powerful, robotic arm to carry the landering spacecraft, the statement said.NASA is looking to land the lunar rover on Pangaea in the Pacific Ocean, which lies about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the lunar south pole, officials said.
It will take about 18 months to reach the moon’s surface.NASA said that lunar landering operations on the surface of the moon will be carried out by the Lunar Recycling Vehicle, or LRO.
LRO will carry the spacecraft about 2,200 miles (3,400 kilometers) to the lunar north pole, where it will land in a specially-designed pit.