The Xeus Lander
The Xeus Lander is our first attempt at bringing astronauts back to the lunar surface. Crafted from the upper stage of a Centaur rocket, the finished lander should be able to land belly-down on the Moon's surface, creating a horizontal habitation unit for astronauts to explore the Moon. Basing the design on an existing rocket means that the researchers can save years and millions of dollars because they do not have to design it from scratch.
The Centaur rocket currently relies on liquid hydrogen and oxygen fuel. Using it as a lunar platform is ideal because the water-ice on the moon could become a potential fuel source to allow the rocket to move back and forth between Earth and the Moon.
Masten Space Systems estimates that they could have a functional prototype ready for testing in less than two years. We may be heading back to the moon sooner than anyone anticipated.
Testing and Simulation
Even if MSS can get a working prototype ready in the next two years, there are still testing phases to consider before sending astronauts to the moon. Theoretical or computer models can provide only so much information, and they aren't necessary when you've got a prototype to work with. That's where space simulations come in.