NASA selects nine companies to compete for Moon funding program

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Private companies - instead of NASA - will lead the race back to the moon, with launch target dates set for 2019 - the 50 anniversary of the first manned moon landing.

NASA has named nine United States companies, including Lockheed Martin Corp, that will compete for funding under the space agency's renewed long-term moon programme, a private-public undertaking to develop technology that will explore the lunar surface. (Proposals for instruments and technologies to study the moon are due in January.) They include payload integration and operations, and launching from Earth and landing on the moon.

NASA hopes that others will use these services as space travel becomes an endeavour accessible to private corporations.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said that Musk is committed to safety as anybody and he understands that smoking pot publicly was not appropriate.

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.

The CLPS contracts are indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts and have a combined maximum value of $2.6 billion over the next 10 years. But Business Insider has learned that Thursday's announcement is tied to a more imminent effort to explore the moon and, by extension, support NASA's larger goals with its gateway.

"We believe that there is a lot of fantastic science that we can do on the surface of the Moon", Bridenstine said.

NASA is planning to conduct workplace reviews of SpaceX and Boeing, another contractor, but which were already under consideration before Musk's appearance on the Rogan podcast.

After safely landing on Mars following its almost seven month journey, NASA has released the first pictures taken by its InSight spacecraft, which has opened it solar arrays to charge batteries.

The Trump administration sees the moon as an opportunity to test technologies as well as new strategies that could reduce the price tag for trips to space, and jump-start new commercial companies.

"Today's announcement marks tangible progress in America's return to the Moon's surface to stay", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement published on November 29. "Our investment is low because we have other people who are investing", said Bridenstine.

Astrobiotic Technology Inc., Pittsburgh; Draper, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Firefly Aerospace Inc., Cedar Park, Texas; Intuitive Machines, Houston; Masten Space Systems Inc., Mojave, California; Moon Express, Cape Canaveral, Florida; and Orbit Beyond, Edison, New Jersey.

During a week when the InSight Lander touched down on Mars, researchers said the future is looking bright. "These missions pave the way for a human return to the moon, as well as enable human exploration of Mars and beyond".

NASA hasn't landed anything on the moon, the final mission of the agency's crewed lunar exploration program.

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