NASA selects nine US companies to vie for moon programme funding

Draper Laboratory in Kendall Square Cambridge

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"We're going at high speed", said Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA's science mission directorate, which will lead the effort over the 10 years.

A Cambridge-based nonprofit that created the navigation system for Apollo is competing with private companies across the country to be the next American entity to land on the moon.

NASA announced several commercial partners Thursday in the USA space agency's quest to return humans to the moon - and eventually Mars.

On Nov. 29, NASA invited media to its headquarters in Washington, D.C. for the announcement of new Moon partnerships with American companies.

Jim Breidenstein drew attention to the fact that the station Gateway must be global.

The companies selected range from a major aerospace corporation, Lockheed Martin, to little-known startups, and from companies that were longtime competitors in the now-expired Google Lunar X Prize for commercial lunar landers to those that had not previously publicly expressed plans for such landers.

NASA officials say the goal of the planned spaceflight is to transport equipment for performing experiments and collecting information about the moon. Working with US companies is the next step to achieving long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

In December, President Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1, giving NASA a new direction: "The directive I am signing today will refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery".

Draper's lunar lander
Draper's lunar lander

NASA is set to send astronauts back to the moon for the first time in more than 40 years.

NASA has plans to go back to the moon to stay, but it has no intention of going it alone.

The good news for the companies concerned is that they are now eligible to bid for "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity" contracts with a combined maximum value of $2.6bn during the next 10 years.

NASA's next lunar science experiments will arrive at the Moon via a spacecraft built by one of nine private companies - a first for one of the agency's science missions.

NASA unveiled a set of new "Moon partnerships" with nine USA companies at a press conference Thursday afternoon. The first such flight could come as early as next year. The company is now developing a "Peregrine Lander" aimed at orbital and surface operations for any lunar destination.

Bridenstine recently said he wants to have humans on Mars by the mid-2030s.

Both companies have been contracted to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, but have suffered setbacks and delays as their work to develop their spacecraft.

This illustration made available by NASA in 2018 shows the InSight lander drilling into Mars.

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