But the ultimate goal of the Artemis program is to establish more or less of a constant human presence on and around the Moon. For orbital operations, a space station called Gateway is being planned. As far as surface ops logistics are concerned, we don't know all that much yet, but we do know any successful human presence there will require a means of transportation.
Back in the days of the Apollo program, that means of transportation was called the Lunar Roving Vehicle. It was a Boeing-made wheeled vehicle which started being used with the Apollo 15 mission. It helped astronauts significantly increase the size of the terrain they could cover during a single outing, from about half a mile (0.8 km) in 20 hours of moonwalks to 22 miles (35 km).
Something similar should happen with the Artemis program as well. The first mission to land on the Moon, Artemis III, but also the subsequent Artemis IV, will not rely on a rover for crew transport. Artemis V, however, the mission described by NASA as the one to make the transition from demonstrating initial lunar exploration capabilities to recurring complex missions, will.
The new rover is now called Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV), and the initial request for information regarding it was made in 2020.
Because it will be meant to operate in extreme environments (temperatures on the Moon range from 280 to minus 280 degrees Fahrenheit/138 to minus 173 degrees Celsius), the LTV will have to feature "advanced power management, semi-autonomous driving, state-of-the-art communication and navigation systems, and protection from the extreme environment."
Two equipment racks (one at the front and the other at the rear), headlights, and a large suite of sensors and cameras are also required.
As far as capabilities go, the rover is expected to carry up to 500 kg (1,100 pounds) of cargo, astronauts included. Its drivetrain will of course need to be electric, and potent enough to move over the rough lunar terrain, even at slopes of at least 15 degrees,
The battery of the rover will have to be chargeable from both internal and external power sources, meaning anything from the lander that brought it to the surface to solar arrays fitted on the rover itself.
NASA said on Friday it will "contract LTV as a service from industry rather than owning the rover" and issued a Lunar Terrain Vehicle Services request for proposals from industry partners.
As per the request, those interested in making a lunar rover and renting it to NASA will have to come up with rates for end-to-end services, meaning from the development of the LTV to running operations on the lunar surface. Proposals are being received by July 10, with the winner of the LTV services contract expected to be announced in November this year.
As said, NASA plans to use the rover for the first time during the Artemis V mission, which is scheduled to leave our planet in 2029.
Yet before we get to see the astronauts of this mission arriving on the Moon and driving around in their brand new rover, the machine will of course have to be tested by its maker up there on the Moon and cleared by NASA.
That means the rover will likely already be on site when Artemis V reaches the Moon, and in the meantime it will be used for both uncrewed and commercial activities.