NASA opens $2.6 billion in contract services for Moon to Mars missions

NASA looks to outsource Moon delivery services

NASA plans to return to the moon with the help of private companies

The $993 million lander arrived Monday at its target, a lava plain named Elysium Planitia, for a two-year mission aimed at better understanding how Earth's neighboring planet formed.

Prior to the announcement, Bridenstine spoke on The Hill TV's "Rising" program, emphasizing the goal of the Space Policy Directive's mission to build the capabilities of not only returning to the Moon, but stay as a sustained presence. "When we go to the moon, we want to be one customer of many customers in a robust marketplace between the Earth and the moon". NASA chose to conduct the review in light of these concerns, says Bridenstine.

Russian Federation has announced a new plan to put cosmonauts on the moon and set up a lunar colony by 2040.

The contracts call for indefinite deliveries and quantities with a combined maximum value of $2.6 billion over the next 10 years.

"I will tell you that was not helpful, and that did not inspire confidence, and the leaders of these organizations need to take that as an example of what to do when you lead an organization that's going to launch American astronauts", said Bridenstine.

NASA Watch's Keith Cowing noted the announcement echoed a similar one 15 years ago in the same room to return to the moon, without much progress since.

"We are excited to leverage our interplanetary lander designs and experience to help NASA build a new economy on and around the Moon, and beyond", Lisa Callahan, a Lockheed Martin vice president, said in a statement. Meanwhile, a startup called Orbit Beyond is in the running for NASA's moon payloads, and it's working with TeamIndus, the Indian spaceflight company that nearly won the Lunar X Prize competition.

NASA's current plan is to start by sending gear to the Moon, and build an orbiting lunar station beginning in 2022. The company was part of the Apollo moon missions that began in the '60s.

NASA already is utilizing the private sector on a commercial basis.

SpaceX and Northrup Grumman are building and launching cargo ships to the International Space Station under commercial contracts that allow NASA to essentially purchase a given launch service rather than designing, developing and operating the vehicles in house. The agency now partners with the private sector for other missions, including human transport to the International Space Station (ISS) wherein SpaceX and Boeing are developing capsules for that goal, and the Directive expands that to include deep space missions.

Forward-looking: NASA promises to put astronauts on the moon once again, but first, its CLPS program needs to deliver payloads of equipment and instruments to the lunar surface.

"They haven't done spacecraft so this is a bit of a new departure for them", McDowell said.

NASA sees this as a step toward long-term study and human exploration of the moon - and eventually Mars.

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