CLPS missions would be the first such partnership in the deep space agency. The first one could fly next year, and NASA hopes to send two loads each year over the next ten years. It is not yet clear what kind of NASA instruments hope to send, even though the first call for proposals will come out in the coming weeks or months.
Most of the companies involved have never flown the spacecraft of this complexity and scale, and Bridenstine has admitted that some of the CLPS missions are unlikely to achieve a "soft" landing on the Moon surface.
"This is the effort of entrepreneurial capital," he told reporters. "At the end of the day the risk is high, but the return is also very high for a low investment."
"It's a great experiment," said senior science administrator Thomas Zurbuchen.
Relatively small and cheap cargoes delivered through the CLPS program would follow more traditional middle and high class missions, Bridenstine said, including an eventual mission to the moon.
US President Donald Trump called US astronauts sending to the moon as the goal of his administration. Its Spatial Policy Directive 1, signed in December last year, directs NASA to co-operate with the private sector in returning to the moon on a long-term mission to Mars.
But the American spacecraft did not touch the Moon since the last Apollo mission in 1972, and it's 50 years since NASA sent a robotic mission to the Moon's surface. Earlier this year, NASA shocked scientists by canceling the Resource Prospector mission, the only US lunar rover that is currently under development.
However, the only natural Earth satellite explores other nations; China's Chang 4 and 5 missions, which will deliver the rover to the moon and return rock samples from the surface, is scheduled to launch next year. India and Israel are also planning to launch lunar landing next year.
Local Geologist Notre Dame Clive Neal, president of the Independent Lunar Exploration Analysis Group, is cautiously optimistic about the possibilities of science within the CLPS program. Many month researchers have been disappointed by rescinding the Resource Prospector mission – "I'm still," Neal said.
But he had the chance to make the partnership with the aviation industry make the Moon easier. Zurbuchen said on Thursday that the mobile lunar lab remained one of NASA's research goals, though such a mission probably developed through a more traditional process.
He also said that NASA hopes to be just one of several clients who provide useful burdens for these commercial missions. Carpooling on the Moon – perhaps with academics or another company – should reduce costs, he said.
CLPS's announcement comes when NASA conducts security reviews of two major private partners, SpaceX and Boeing. Both companies agreed to fly to the Space Station's astronauts, but they suffered from delays and delays as their work on the development of spacecraft. SpaceX, in particular, drew attention after founder Elon Musk took hit marijuana and drank whiskey on the podcast. No company is among the CLPS eligibility choices.