Payload Pioneers 2023: Van Wagner

In the five years Van Wagner has spent in the space community, he’s become known for one thing: rovers.

“I’m actively engaged in identifying and pursuing novel technologies for use both on planetary bodies and in orbit,” said Wagner, a program manager at Lunar Outpost. “These technologies have the potential to improve our presence in space and yield benefits for life here on Earth.”

Lunar Outpost 101: The 25-year-old is at the helm of the company’s space robotic ventures, which includes the Mobile Autonomous Prospecting Platform rover. The MAPP mission, which is scheduled to launch later this year and again in 2024, could be the first rover that will travel to the south pole of the Moon. 

“Van’s critical contributions to Lunar Outpost and the space industry are transforming the availability of mobility platforms on the moon and offering a low barrier to entry path for scientific and commercial payloads,” Parker Steen, a mechanical engineer at MIT who used to work at Lunar Outpost, said in his nomination. 

Terrestrial benefits: Through Lunar Outpost, Wagner led a slew of missions for different public and private enterprises, including Nokia and NASA. While some missions involved collecting lunar regolith to bring back, many of these missions are specifically meant to immediately improve life on Earth.

“I am committed to shedding light on the considerable potential space holds for enhancing life on Earth, even in the face of the lengthy and resource-intensive nature of engineering projects in this field,” Wagner said.

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