(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) – The next US landing on the moon will make private companies – not NASA.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced on Thursday that nine US companies will compete for delivering experiments on the Moon's surface. The Space Agency will buy a service and allow the private industry to work on details of the arrival, he said.
The aim is to get to know the scientific and technological experiments as soon as possible on the surface of the moon. The first flight could be next year; 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the first landing of the moon.
"We are attacking speed," said Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA's Mission Mission Mission, who will take the lead.
NASA scientists have said that research will help get astronauts on Moon faster and keep them safer when they are there. Initial deliveries will probably include radiation monitors as well as laser reflectors for gravity and other types of measurements, according to Zurbuchen.
Bridenstine said it would be on companies to organize their rocket launches. NASA will be one of the multiple users who use these lunar services.
The announcement came only three days after NASA landed on Mars. NASA wants to see how it goes to the Moon before it commits to commercial delivery services to Mars.
This new partnership is loosely modeled after NASA's successful commercial freight delivery to the International Space Station as well as unidentified pregnant crews. SpaceX and Northrop Grumman, formerly Orbital ATK, have been sending space stations since 2012. SpaceX expects the start of astronaut transportation to the orbiting laboratory next year; so also Boeing.
All in all, these commercial content for Lunar Payload Services has a combined value of $ 2.6 billion over the next 10 years.
NASA wants a lot of companies involved in market competition and fast arrival to the moon, so astronauts can benefit when landing orbits are set close to the moon.
Bridenstine expects men to work occasionally on the moon, along with robots and rowers, within ten years.
The nine companies, represented by seven countries, are:
Astrobiotic Technology Inc., Pittsburgh; Deep Space Systems, Littleton, Colorado; Draper, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Firefly Aerospace Inc., Cedar Park, Texas; Intuitive Machines, Houston; Lockheed Martin, Littleton; Masten Space Systems Inc., Mojave, California; Moon Express, Cape Canaveral; and Orbit Beyond, Edison, New Jersey.
Lockheed Martin has already landed on the Moon in designs based on the Mars InSight lander, which the company has built for NASA. Insight arrived in March on Monday.
McCandless Lunar Lander was named after the late astronaut and former employee of Lockheed Martin, Bruce McCandless, who made the first freeway flying spacecraft without a lifeline for the orbiting shuttle in 1984, using the jetpack built by the company. The image of McCandle floating in the darkness of space, with the blue Earth in the background, is one of the most powerful in NASA.
Bridenstine said NASA wants the companies to succeed, the space agency is certain that some of the efforts will succeed. Expectations should not exceed 50 percent, Zurbuchen emphasized.
"These are not expensive missions," Bridenstine told reporters before the announcement in Washington. "This is like the effort of pregnant capital where the risk is high at the end of the day, but the return is also very high for low investment."
He added, "Our goal is to learn how much we can learn and help develop this industry in the United States."