Americans are heading back to the Moon.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine (far left) and Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen (far right) pose for a photograph with the representatives of the nine US companies that are eligible to bid on NASA delivery services to the lunar surface through Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts.
Joining Bridenstine and TBA "future partners" will be folks from NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Johnson Space Center, and Goddard Space Flight Center, as well as local FIRST Robotics students.
NASA is determined to send crewed missions back to the moon following a directive from Republican President, Donald Trump.
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The goal is to get science and technology experiments to the surface of the moon as soon as possible.
In December, Trump signed a policy directive instructing NASA to "refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery". 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing.
Almost 50 years after Neil Armstrong became the first human to step onto the surface of Earth's satellite, President Trump signed a mandate to send USA astronauts back to the planetoid.
Lockheed Martin, which built the InSight lander that successfully touched down on Mars Monday, said it plans to build a robotic moon lander based on a similar design that could carry a variety of payloads.
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When asked what information companies had to provide in order to participate in the program and how NASA chose the winners, Zurbuchen did not go into specifics.
The Space Directive prompted NASA to establish The Exploration Campaign, a national and agency effort focused on three core domains: low Earth orbit; lunar orbit and surface; and Mars and other deep space objectives. 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. In a departure from past practice, the companies own their rockets and spacecraft and can use them for other, non-government missions if a market develops.
NASA is set to unveil a set of new "Moon partnerships" with USA companies in a press conference this afternoon.
NASA has selected the first batch of US companies to join the agency on its journey to its next destination, the moon, which NASA wants to explore in order to prepare to go on to Mars.
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