Enlarge / NASA’s generic concept for a lunar terrain vehicle. (credit: NASA)

NASA has made another bold bet on the nation’s commercial space industry, this time asking private companies to provide a lunar rover that can survive for up to a decade near the South Pole of the Moon.

The space agency on Wednesday announced the selection of three teams, led by Intuitive Machines, Lunar Outpost, and Venturi Astrolab, to work on designs for a rover that can be used by astronauts and function autonomously when no crew is around.

Each company will work with the space agency for the next year or so to reach what is known as a “preliminary design review” for their vehicle. The initial awards are not huge; each is a few tens of millions of dollars. But this work will set the stage for a demonstration phase, which will be worth significantly more.

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