Rockets like the one in this RR-1 prototype lander, recently outfitted with a Guidance Embedded Navigator Integration Environment (GENIE) system to let the craft safely descend to the lunar surface.
NASA has put the whole system to the test, to calculate and interpret complex algorithms necessary to process volumes of data from the laser altimeter, GPS and inertial sensors, and quickly enough to steer the rocket engine approriately, and surprisingly the first test seemed to work.
Its first solo flight in an inspiring, flame-filled video follows:
Project M is a proposed project to land an operational humanoid robot on the moon in 1000 days (M is the Roman numeral for 1000). The humanoid will travel to the moon on a small lander fueled by green propellants, liquid methane and liquid oxygen. It will perform a precision, autonomous landing, avoiding any hazards or obstacles on the surface. Upon landing the robot will deploy and walk on the surface performing a multitude of tasks focused on demonstrating engineering tasks such as maintenance and construction; performing science of opportunity (i.e. using existing sensors on the robot or small science instruments); and simple student experiments.
The mission is about inspiration, streamlining agency practices and processes and using unconventional partnerships, and building a workforce and demonstrating technologies to enable the continuation of human exploration beyond low earth orbit.
While the project is not fully funded nor vetted at the agency level, much progress has already been made by leveraging and coalescing existing, funded technology work; by forming innovative partnerships; and by a small project team focusing on fast iterative design, test, and execution.