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U.S. tech firm Maxar taps startup's robotics for moon mission

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By Joey Roulette

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. technology company Maxar Technologies Inc said it picked software developed by space startup Olis Robotics to run a robotic lunar lander that’s part of NASA’s broader goal of human moon missions by 2024.

A robotic arm attached to Maxar’s SAMPLR lunar lander, one of 12 payloads on a mission to the moon around 2022, will use the software to fetch samples from the moon’s surface, collecting data crucial to future crewed missions to earth’s satellite. 

Seattle-based Olis Robotics is building the robotic arm and accompanying software.

Olis says its software and robotics – operated like a video game console by engineers sitting at desks – enables remote-controlled space exploration and manufacturing that is otherwise too costly or dangerous for humans to handle in person.

Such technology, used for years by oil and gas companies or undersea researchers, is central to futuristic ambitions of humans living and working in space, the company says.

That vision is shared by senior NASA officials as well as billionaire Inc founder Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin space company.

NASA is racing to send a crew of U.S. astronauts to the moon by 2024, an accelerated timeline set by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in March. 

The space agency’s Artemis program calls for privately built lunar landers, robotic rovers and the Lunar Gateway – a modular space station in orbit around the Moon with living quarters for astronauts, a lab for science and ports for visiting spacecraft. 

Westminster, Colorado-based Maxar was the first contractor selected by NASA in May to help build a propulsion module for the Gateway platform. 

(Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington; editing by Bill Tarrant and Stephen Coates)

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