NASA reveal new moon lander design ahead of 2024 lunar mission

26 November 2019, 10:50 | Updated: 27 November 2019, 09:55

NASA's new proposed lunar lander
NASA's new proposed lunar lander. Picture: NASA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

NASA has unveiled a concept of what a future lunar lander could look like, as it aims to return astronauts to the moon by 2024.

As the American space agency prepares to return to the surface of the moon by 2024 they have released images of their proposed lunar lander module.

Dubbed the spacecraft a "pallet lander concept" it would be used to deliver a rover and equipment for exploring the frozen polar regions of the moon.

In a technical paper explaining its work, NASA says the mid-sized lander was designed to be simple and affordable - though it admits that the lander is not intended to survive the lunar night.

A NASA spokesperson said they have already awarded commercial contracts for payload delivery to the lunar surface.

“This lander was designed with simplicity in mind to deliver a 300-kilogram rover to a lunar pole," said Logan Kennedy, the project's lead systems engineer at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

"We used single string systems, minimal mechanisms and existing technology to reduce complexity, though advancements in precision landing were planned to avoid hazards and to benefit rover operations. We keep the rover alive through transit and landing so it can go do its job.”

The design is significantly different to the Apollo 11 lander
The design is significantly different to the Apollo 11 lander. Picture: NASA

NASA officials plan to build a small moon-orbiting space station named Gateway in the early 2020s which will be key to preparing mankind's return to the moon.

The Gateway station will work as a hub for missions to the surface, landers will leave Gateway to the surface and use it as a base for further exploration. Astronauts will also operate moon rovers from this orbital perch, NASA officials have said

The space agency aims to land two astronauts — including the first-ever female moonwalker — near the lunar south pole in 2024 and establish a sustainable, long-term presence on and around the moon by 2028 in a bid to discover new scientific discoveries and demonstrate new technological advancements, and with the help of private companies to build a lunar economy.