NASA Administrator reveals new commercial plan to explore the Moon

Sunday, 02 Dec, 2018

The companies will bid on contracts to deliver science and technology payloads to enable humans to travel back to the moon, and eventually on to Mars.

The nine companies range from startups to aerospace giants, reported Space News, which added that while they are eligible for future contracts to deliver payloads to the surface of the moon, there is "no guarantee of business for any of them".

That's when NASA plans to give an update about a program that aims to land privately developed spacecraft on the moon. The nine companies announced are: Astrobotic Technology, Deep Space Systems, Draper, Firefly Aerospace., Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin Space, Masten Space Systems, Moon Express, and Orbit Beyond.

NASA hopes that others will use these services as space travel becomes an endeavour accessible to private corporations.

Jim Bridenstine, the chief administrator of NASA, unveiled a series of new "Moon partnerships". NASA will later compete individual task orders among the companies to fly specific payloads to the moon. All contracts to be signed are indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity and have a combined value of $2.6 billion for the following ten years. Its team is comprised of space tech and support services for the Nasa programme. The last time humans visited the moon was in 1972, during NASA's Apollo 17 mission.

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Even Bridenstine said that while NASA wants the companies to succeed, the space agency is certain some of the efforts will fail.

NASA has contracted with both companies to provide spacecraft to shuttle astronauts from American soil to the International Space Station.

After safely landing on Mars following its almost seven month journey, NASA has released the first pictures taken by its InSight spacecraft, which has opened it solar arrays to charge batteries. NASA expects to be only one of many customers that will use the commercial landing services - from the Earth to the Moon - created by the program. The mission aims to prove SLS is safe and reliable by sending an uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the moon and back to Earth.

"(The) announcement marks tangible progress in America's return to the Moon's surface to stay", Bridenstine said. In 2016, Moon Express became the first commercial space company to receive US federal government authorization for a private mission to the Moon. "We've had a number of conversations", he explained. "We know we need that kind of BFR - and whatever evolves from New Glenn - heavy-lift capability if we're going to do human exploration of the solar system".

NASA released a draft request for proposals April 27 that called for US companies to "introduce new technologies to deliver payloads to the Moon", NASA said when announcing the initial request for proposals.