NASA is looking for help from the world of automobiles, and more specifically, the world of buses and vans. Essentially, NASA is looking for a new Astrovan for its astronauts, and it’s opening the search up to everybody.
The bus/van will replace the Astrovan as the method of transportation for astronauts going from the Astronaut Crew Quarters to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. It’s a nine-mile stretch of travel leading up to launch time that has always been fairly ceremonial in nature. The Astrovan (shown in photo above) was bright and shiny on the exterior with a big NASA emblem on it to make the van fully recognizable for TV and those on the ground.
Astronauts have ridden on the van since 1984, and with the new missions to the moon starting up soon, NASA wants a new ride for its astronauts that is both retro and fully modernized. Its first journey to the launch pad will be for the Artemis II mission to space. That will be the first of many trips it takes throughout the Artemis space program.
As for the requirements, here’s what NASA is asking for: “The proposals should be unique, embrace new technology, and visually embody Artemis to the public. The vehicle will need to seat eight, including four fully suited crewmembers. Through this partnership, the agency will engage the Artemis generation from ride-out to touch-down, while inspiring the next wave of explorers.”
According to the official information out of NASA (via The Drive), it's even going to consider proposals of refurbishing and breathing new life into the 1983 custom Airstream it uses now. That just widens the possible field of competitors for this job.
If you’re an automotive company (or custom shop) with eyes on being part of NASA’s space program, proposals for the vehicle are due on October 22. We can’t wait to see what NASA ultimately lands on, even if the stakes are ultimately much lower than the next-gen lunar rovers that are coming in this same Artemis space program.