SpaceX is eligible to propose using its next-generation Starship vehicle to carry NASA robotic science payloads to the lunar surface, the U.S. space agency announced Monday, on missions that could precede future Starship flights with people on-board. SpaceX is one of five companies NASA selected Monday to join a roster of commercial transportation providers to deliver scientific instruments and technology demonstration packages to the moon as soon as 2022.
Scientists marked the 10th anniversary of the launch of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter on Tuesday, celebrating a mission that has greatly outlived its original one-year design life and continues taking high-resolution pictures to help U.S. companies and international space agencies select destinations for moon landers.
Within days, NASA is expected to select a winner from a roster of nine eligible companies to try and become the first commercial entity to accomplish a soft landing on the moon with a robotic spacecraft. The privately-developed probe would be the vanguard in a series of unpiloted missions intended to deliver science instruments to the lunar surface and prepare for a human expedition as soon as 2024.