NASA selects nine companies to compete for Moon funding program

Muriel Hammond
December 2, 2018

"The US is returning to the surface of the moon, and we're doing it sooner than you think!" The agency is now working with commercial partners in an effort to produce a lunar transport "market" one created to further enable scientific exploration of our closest celestial neighbor.

"This contract award recognizes a viable technical approach Firefly to deliver useful data to NASA and other commercial cargo on the lunar surface, as well as the viability of its business plan and financial resources to develop a system of CLPS Firefly", says Firefly CEO Dr. Tom Marcus in a press release.

Draper is a not-for-profit which was involved with the Apollo Moon landings.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about NASA's list are the names that aren't on it.

A layout of NASA's Moon to Mars mission.

The companies will bid contracts worth a combined value of $US2.6 ($4) billion. NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine, announced that nine private-sector aerospace companies, including Lockheed Martin, will develop the spacecraft and technology to get the USA back to the moon.

But agency leaders are already contemplating the retirement of the Space Launch System (SLS), as the towering and yet-to-fly government rocket is called, and the Orion space capsule that'll ride on top.

The McCandless Lunar Lander is named after the late astronaut and former Lockheed Martin employee Bruce McCandless. The company now subcontracts with other major contractors in the field of space exploration such as Lockheed Martin and NASA.

Aside from Lockheed Martin, most of the aerospace firms are not too well known. "We want to do it far more with commercial and worldwide partners than we can do on our own". But a lunar land feud may be looming. These companies will be developing small launch vehicles and robotic rovers over the next 10 years.

"There isn't a direct connection to Orion, but this offering does pull from our planetary heritage overall". Draper is teaming up with a company that grew out of a Japanese Lunar X Prize team - iSpace, which recently secured $90 million in funding of its own.

"The directive I'm signing today will refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery", the president said at the signing ceremony.

This illustration made available by NASA in 2018 shows the InSight lander drilling into Mars. McCandless was the first person to conduct an untethered spacewalk (on STS-41B). The mission: to deliver scientific instruments to the moon, as a prelude to setting up permanent bases for people.

The theme of encouraging interest in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) was strongly highlighted during Thursday's announcement with the FIRST Robotics students and other educational groups incorporated into the program.

As per the head designer at Russia's space program, Yevgeny Mikrin, working on this project could begin by 2025. "If you want to learn the age of the solar system, you take samples from the moon and analyze them".

However, according to NASA's plans, by 2040, the United States space agency would already have put humans on Mars, so Russian Federation is falling behind, to some extent.

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