NASA wants to take America back to the Moon. The agency has indicated to reveal - on Thursday - the names of selected American companies that will compete to send astronauts back to the lunar surface, for the first time in about five decades.
"We are announcing new Moon partnerships with American companies," Jim Bridenstine, NASA's administrator, tweeted on Tuesday.
"The US is returning to the surface of the Moon, and we're doing it sooner than you think!"
NASA will host a press conference on Thursday afternoon to provide further information about its endeavour to return to the Moon.
According to Business Insider, NASA is expected to unveil the names of 11 companies that will be eligible to compete for NASA contracts worth millions of dollars. One of these firms is Astrobotic Technology that was established in 2007 and is currently developing a small-sized lunar lander called Peregrine for NASA. The lander will deliver payloads to lunar surface and lunar orbit on each Moon mission.
NASA also wants to build a "Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway" near Moon sometime in the 2020s. However, Thursday's announcement is expected to reveal details about the more imminent efforts to explore the Moon and support space agency's larger goals with its gateway.
"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 press release.
NASA's first crewed mission to the moon was Apollo 8, which was launched in 1968. It circled around the Moon but did not land on the lunar surface.
Apollo 11 was the first mission to land on Moon. The capsule landed on the Sea of Tranquility on 20 July 1969, providing US astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin an opportunity to walk on the lunar surface.
The last mission of NASA's crewed lunar exploration programme was Apollo 17, which touched down on the lunar surface on 17 December 1972.
Since that time, NASA has sent several probes to study the composition of Moon's soil, but no manned mission was launched to explore the lunar surface again.
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