It's been almost half a century since humanity last set foot on the moon. However, the Artemis Program aims to put people on our nearest celestial neighbor again. NASA's rocket, the SLS, was recently rolled out and performed a launch rehearsal. Hopes are to achieve a permanent human presence on the moon and create a lunar economy.
At least the latter seems well underway to become a reality. As we've previously reported, Elon Musk wants to travel to both the moon and Mars before the end of this decade. But it seems like someone else will beat him to the moon.
On April 20, American lunar logistics company Astrobotic showed off their lunar lander, Peregrine, slated to land on the moon later this year. While unmanned, the lander will carry 24 pieces of payload, 11 from NASA and the rest from companies, agencies, and universities worldwide.
Remarkably, Peregrine isn't the company's only product, as they're developing a larger lander known as the Griffin. Where Peregrine can carry 80-100kg, Griffin is designed to carry up to 500kg. They also have two rovers in the works, Cuberover, a light and affordable rover, and Polaris, which can carry a 90kg payload and communicate directly with earth.
One of Astrobotic's competitors is the Japanese company iSpace. They've currently got two missions in the works, the first of which is hoped to occur later this year. Regardless of whether they meet that deadline, they're poised to achieve a world first, albeit quite a mundane one.
On April 21, the company announced they had signed insurance with Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co, MSI. Together they're developing the terms for MSI's Lunar Insurance Plan, which covers the entire trip from launch to landing. The specific times of the insurance are currently being extended, but hopes are to finalize them before iSpace's first mission launches, which is set to happen towards the end of this year, at the earliest.
With private companies providing other businesses the ability to conduct commercial activities on the moon, we seem to be on the brink of a lunar economy.