NASA's mid-size lander concept can deliver a big rover to the Moon

NASA has published its new mid-size lunar lander concept, explaining that the robotic vehicle — or one like it — may soon be used to conduct missions on the Moon. The lander concept was designed to deliver a 660lbs rover to one of the Moon's poles, according to the space agency, which says its engineers focused on keeping landing site accuracy while maximizing the mass that could be delivered to the lunar surface.

The mid-sized lander concept was introduced as part of a newly published study from NASA, which reports that multiple field centers all contributed to the effort. Project lead systems engineer Logan Kennedy at the Marshall Space Flight Center explained:

As robotic lunar landers grow to accommodate larger payloads, simple but high-performing landers with a contiguous payload volume will be needed. This concept was developed by a diverse team of people over many years and meets that need. We hope that other lander designers can benefit from our work.

Under its Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, NASA awards contracts to commercial companies for payload delivery to the Moon. The space agency anticipates more partnerships under this initiative in the future, explaining that some of its payloads will need 'vehicles capable of exploring the environment.'

Rovers are often used for planet (and, in this case, Moon) exploration because they can autonomously travel across different environments while carrying various scientific equipment. NASA says its experts have been studying the different types of technology that it will need to get vital data about the lunar surface. The new lander concept is one such development.