NASA has sent three craft to an area of the midwest on the journey to the Moon, continuing a long-standing tradition.
The space agency announced Tuesday the first two of three spacecraft will land on the Mid-West Landsat-3-5 launch site, located about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of Minneapolis.
The landers are a combination of two space shuttles and two spacecraft designed to return samples to Earth.
The first, the NASA/Aerospatiale Europa Clipper, will carry six landers and a payload of instruments.
The second, the Boeing-built Pioneer 7, will bring seven landers, a probe to monitor the planet’s surface, a geosynchronous orbiter, a communications relay, and a small rover.
NASA said the spacecraft will deploy a science probe to study the surface and atmosphere of the moon.
The third, the International Space Station (ISS), will use the landers to test its new science instruments and send the station into orbit.
The agency is still waiting for a landing on the moon, which is considered one of the most important objectives of human exploration, NASA said in a statement.
The midwest is a region that’s traditionally overlooked in scientific research, but scientists are now taking a look at the region for possible use as a potential landing site.
The region, the Southwest, contains many geological features that could hold the key to lunar resources, including a crater or a crater-like feature known as a chondrite or craters.
The space agency said it has been exploring the area for decades, and that the Midwestern Landsat satellite is a key part of that effort.
The satellite will launch in 2020.NASA hopes to have the lander, probes and station on the lunar surface by 2025.
The agency has been working on the spacecraft since 2012, when it took delivery of the first spacecraft.