NASA has revealed the names of nine US companies that now will join it in its journey to the Moon.
During a press conference held yesterday, NASA talked about its new partners, which include aerospace and defence behemoth Lockheed Martin. It will design and build lunar landers to facilitate scientific exploration of the Moon and help create a base there.
"Today's announcement marks tangible progress in America's return to the Moon's surface to stay," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in press conference.
"The innovation of America's aerospace companies, wedded with our big goals in science and human exploration, are going to help us achieve amazing things on the Moon and feed forward to Mars."
Bridenstine also pledged to establish a manned base on Moon within a decade.
According to NASA, nine firms are now eligible to compete for NASA contracts for delivery services to the lunar surface over the next decade. These companies will design and launch scientific instruments and robotic payloads under Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) programme.
For NASA, the goal is to gather valuable scientific data and to encourage the private sector to explore the space beyond low-Earth orbit.
The companies selected by NASA are:
- Astrobotic Technology: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Lockheed Martin Space: Littleton, Colorado
- Moon Express: Cape Canaveral, Florida
- Draper: Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Intuitive Machines: Houston, Texas
- Deep Space Systems: Littleton, Colorado
- Masten Space Systems: Mojave, California
- Orbit Beyond: Edison, New Jersey
- Firefly Aerospace: Cedar Park, Texas
According to Bridenstine, the selection of private firms for the Moon mission is part of President Trump's Space Policy Directive 1, directing NASA to go to the Moon with commercial partners.
The US President signed the Space Policy Directive in December last year, officially announcing a return to the lunar surface as the near-term goal of NASA's human space programme.
NASA's CLPS programme will offer contracts worth a combined value of about $2.6 billion over the next 10 years. Before offering contracts, the space agency will evaluate bids for cost and technical feasibility.
NASA will also re-evaluate the private sector landscape periodically for emerging players that may be able to offer lunar delivery capabilities, and which may offer CLPS contacts to more companies through on-ramping process.
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