NASA Announces the Companies Competing to Put us Back on the Moon

Gwen Vasquez
December 1, 2018

The announcement came just three days after NASA landed a spacecraft on Mars.

Much like NASA's Commercial Resupply Services and Commercial Crew Program, NASA wouldn't own these vehicles, it would purchase their services from the firms that produced them.

The companies will bid contracts worth a combined value of $US2.6 ($4) billion.

But no United States spacecraft has touched down on the Moon since the last Apollo mission in 1972, and it's been exactly 50 years since NASA last sent a robotic mission to the lunar surface.

Bridenstine confirmed he ordered safety reviews of SpaceX and Boeing, another NASA contractor, after Musk smoked on the podcast, but he said that was always the plan.

"When we go back, we want to build a sustainable infrastructure to support humans up there, as well as for us to become sort of an ecosystem [up there] of gather science", Tomek said.

Scientist-Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt is photographed working beside a huge boulder at Station 6 during the third Apollo 17 extravehicular activity at the Taurus-Littrow lunar landing site, December 13, 1972. Even sending something small to the moon is no simple feat as the expiration of the Lunar X Prize demonstrated.

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

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Hot on the heels of successfully landing a spacecraft on Mars on November 26, NASA officials explained it will partner with nine private companies who "will compete to deliver experiments to the lunar surface", the Associated Press reported Thursday.

Bridenstine also pledged to establish a manned base on Moon within a decade.

Through new partnerships with private companies, NASA aims to ramp up its efforts to return to the moon. But it is also expected to serve as a launching point for missions to other parts of the solar system, including the planet Mars.

Sadly, with NASA's schedules now stretching out beyond the most optimistic projections for the length of the Trump presidency, a change of direction could happen before humans get to prod at Moon rocks in situ. Astrobotic and Moon Express were founded with the aim of winning that prize. When asked by Marina Koren from the Atlantic if the videos of Musk's drug use was a red flag in terms of SpaceX's ability to handle the NASA mission, Bridenstine replied: "I think those were not helpful". It is teamed on its CLPS award with several other companies, including Team Indus, one of the finalists in the Google Lunar X Prize.

The nine companies already have not-quite-finished hardware.

This illustration made available by NASA in 2018 shows the InSight lander drilling into Mars.

Bridenstine said he needs 100 percent commitment to safety from companies with which NASA does business. Whenever they get to the moon, they may not be alone.

Ultimately, these upcoming missions will help NASA gather data in order to prepare to send a lander with a person in it to the Martian surface.

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