NASA selects nine US companies to vie for moon program funding

Enlarge ImageAstrobotic's Peregrine Lunar Lander is designed to deliver up to a 35-kilogram payload to the lunar surface.                  Astrobotic

NASA has revealed the names of nine U.S. companies that now will join it in its journey to the Moon.

The relatively small and low-cost payloads delivered via the CLPS program would be followed by more traditional medium- and large-class missions, Bridenstine said, including an eventual crewed mission to the Moon.

NASANASA plans to return to the moon with American companies.

NASA announced several commercial partners Thursday in the US space agency's quest to return humans to the moon - and eventually Mars. Rather, NASA says the nine United States companies will be eligible to bid delivery services for getting science payloads to the moon.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine described the announcement as "tangible progress in America's return to the Moon's surface to stay".

Orbit Beyond, a spacecraft company, is expected to fly its spacecraft to the Moon by 2020. According to a press conference Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, held this Wednesday, Russia is set to establish a Moon colony by 2040. Maintaining a permanent human presence in lunar orbit will require a lot of support services that NASA can't handle on its own.

The goal is to get science and technology experiments to the surface of the moon as soon as possible, and the first flight could be next year.

When asked what information companies had to provide in order to participate in the program and how NASA chose the winners, Zurbuchen did not go into specifics. The innovation of Americas aerospace companies, wedded with our big goals in science and human exploration, are going to help us achieve awesome thingsonthe Moon and feed forward to Mars.

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The good news for the companies concerned is that they are now eligible to bid for "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity" contracts with a combined maximum value of $2.6bn during the next 10 years.

Almost 50 years after Neil Armstrong became the first human to step onto the surface of Earth's satellite, President Trump signed a mandate to send USA astronauts back to the planetoid. The first flight could be next year; 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing.

The commercial crew program, NASA started to use transporting humans from space with the expertise of private aerospace industry competitors and given the contract to SpaceX and Boeing in the year 2014.

These companies will be able to bid on delivering science and technology payloads for NASA, including payload integration and operations, launching from Earth and landing on the surface of the Moon.

NASA has a plan for astronauts to orbit the moon in 2023 and return to the surface by the late 2020s using a lunar lander.

Bridenstine recently said he wants to have humans on Mars by the mid-2030s. Insight arrived at Mars on Monday.

NASA regularly awards contracts to private companies for work on its various missions.

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