The Commercial Lunar Payload Services contracts have a total value of $2.6 billion over the next 10 years.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine hosted a press conference today to reveal the next phase of the agency's lunar ambitions. The company was part of the Apollo moon missions that began in the '60s.
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The Space Policy Directive was born from the recommendations provided during the first meeting of the new National Space Council, a group under the US Department of Commerce's Office of Space Commerce.
Our aim now is to get small science and technology experiments to reach the surface of the moon as soon as possible.
"It's a big experiment", Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen said. In a news release, NASA said that "w$3 orking with USA companies is the next step to achieving long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and Mars".
NASA wants to purchase services rather than develop and launch its own spacecraft as part of the human exploration plan to explore and utilize the Moon.
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"On the Gateway, America and its partners will prepare to transit deep space, testing new technologies and systems as we build the infrastructure to support missions to the surface of the Moon and prepare for the epochal mission to Mars", the agency said.
NASA's Exploration Campaign includes leadership in low-Earth orbit, in orbit around the Moon and on its surface, and at destinations beyond, including Mars.
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 objective, and the Directive expands that to include deep space missions.
"The reality is, we're getting ready to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil for the first time since 2011, and we want to make sure we have a cultural assessment, a safety assessment of each of our providers", he said. Robotic exploration of Mars has been underway for years, with the InSight mission landing on the surface this week and another rover landing planned for 2020.
China demands release of Huawei executive
Meanwhile, news of the arrest has sparked fears on Wall Street that the trade war between the U.S. and China could escalate. Huawei today continues to expand into new areas including chip development, artificial intelligence and cloud computing.
The McCandless Lunar Lander is named after the late astronaut and former Lockheed Martin employee Bruce McCandless, who in 1984 performed the first free-flying spacewalk without a lifeline to the orbiting shuttle, using a jetpack built by the company.