NASA selects nine U.S. companies to vie for moon program funding
NASA selects nine U.S. companies to vie for moon program funding
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30 November, 2018, 01:07
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine and Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen welcome representatives from nine private companies that will be involved in NASA's future missions to the moon and Mars. But the newly announced contracts for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program came with a ceremony and extra fanfare given the newly energized push to return to the moon with help from private companies under the Trump administration.
NASA is determined to send crewed missions back to the moon following a directive from Republican President, Donald Trump. Only 12 men, all Americans, have set foot on the Moon.
The last time a human was on the moon, over 45 years ago, the mission totaled $25 billion, which adjusted for inflation would look more like $150 billion today.
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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. "Working with US companies is the next step to achieving long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and Mars", NASA said in a statement.
In a separate news release, NASA said that "l$3 unar payloads could fly on these contracted missions as early as 2019".
A major part of that renewed focus on the moon is establishing a commercial space infrastructure that could eventually reduce government costs while opening up new opportunities for business in low-Earth orbit and beyond. SpaceX and Northrup Grumman are building and launching cargo ships to the International Space Station under commercial contracts that allow NASA to essentially purchase a given launch service rather than designing, developing and operating the vehicles in house.
NASA on Thursday named nine US companies, including Lockheed Martin Corp, that will compete for funding under the space agency's renewed long-term moon program, a private-public undertaking to develop technology that will explore the lunar surface. President Donald Trump wants US astronauts to return to the Moon as a foundation for future Mars missions.
Using commercial services, NASA will be able to "accelerate a robotic return to the moon, with upcoming missions targeted for two to three years earlier than previously planned".
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