On Thursday, at the World Astronautical Congress in Bremen, Germany, the aerospace company unveiled the design for a spacecraft that's meant to shuttle up to four astronauts between an orbiting space station and the moon's surface. According to a newly published Lockheed white paper, the lunar lander would carry a crew of four astronauts and an additional 2,000 pounds of payload cargo to the surface of the Moon where it could stay for up to two weeks before returning to the Gateway without refueling on the surface.
Among the plan's strategic objectives, NASA calls for returning USA astronauts on the surface of the moon. "Because this lander doesn't have to endure the punishment of re-entering Earth's atmosphere, it can be re-flown many times over without needing significant and costly refurbishment".
Lockheed says that it will be re-using some of the technology developed for NASA's Orion deep space exploration vehicle including avionics, life support, and communications and navigation systems, to reduce cost and development time for the lander.
"I'm thrilled to extend progress in commercial cooperation we've made in low-Earth orbit to the lunar environment with this new agreement with the Israel Space Agency and SpaceIL", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
In an August speech, Vice President Mike Pence made clear that returning to the Moon is a top priority for the USA, an objective previously put forth by the Trump administration.
The craft would complete its mission and then blast off from the lunar surface.
"We will return to the Moon, put Americans on Mars and once again explore the farthest depths of outer space", he said.
A key part of the design is that the spacecraft is reusable. Important quantities of water can be found on the moon's polar region, which missions in the future can use to create fuel and oxygen for a manned outpost.