A prototype of the 30-kilogram Canadensys lunar rover will demonstrate key technologies for future lunar exploration as well as complete scientific investigation on the lunar geology, shadowed regions, life sciences and astronaut health. (Credit: Canadensys)

Scientists and engineers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel have received the green light to begin developing a key infrared imaging instrument for Canada’s first lunar rover. On Nov. 14, the Canadian Space Agency announced a $43 million Canadian dollar ($31.9 million) contract to Canadensys Aerospace Corporation and its partners to build the rover.

The 66-pound (30-kilogram) lunar rover will be delivered by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, with a scheduled landing on the Moon’s South Pole as early as 2026. It will explore permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) for water ice that would both help uncover the origin of life on Earth and provide fuel for future human space exploration.

The rover will carry a suite of six scientific payloads to demonstrate technologies for lunar endeavors and perform lunar science investigations on PSRs, lunar geology, astronaut health and life sciences. Among those payloads will be the Lunar Advanced Filter Observing Radiometer for Geologic Exploration (LAFORGE) instrument.

“Not only is LAFORGE going to provide fantastic science measurements, but the LAFORGE team will be integral to helping decide which shadowed regions this lunar rover mission should explore,” said Benjamin Greenhagen, the LAFORGE principal investigator and a planetary scientist at APL.