Next US moon landing will be by private companies, not NASA

Artist's depiction of Masten's XL-1 lander on the surface of the Moon. Image Credit Masten

"This is not going to be Lucy and the football again; we're not planning to go to the moon and then we're going to not go to the moon". The company will provide any number of contributions towards NASA's mission to the Moon.

The announcement came just three days after NASA landed a spacecraft on Mars. Similarly, CLPS hopes to encourage smaller companies to develop of 1,100- to 2,200-pound robotic landers that can deliver NASA's scientific payloads to the moon's surface.

"The relatively small and low-priced payloads delivered via the CLPS program would be followed by more traditional medium- and large-class missions", said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. These missions could begin as early as 2019.

He said the organization was struggling with financial burdens but there was a clear five-year plan that would lead to a new age of space technology. NASA believes the first missions could head for the moon as soon as next year, and it already has some payloads in mind.

"We want to go back with humans and actually use those resources", Zurbuchen said. In a news release, NASA said that "w$3 orking with US companies is the next step to achieving long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and Mars".

Under Space Policy Directive-1, the agency will lead an innovative and sustainable exploration of the Moon together with commercial and global partners.

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NASA's CLPS programme will offer contracts worth a combined value of about $2.6 billion over the next 10 years.

For the new missions, the company said it will use its uncrewed lander, Artemis-7, to complete sample selection and return, contribute to plans for the eventual return of humans to the moon's surface. The first flight could be next year.

Back in August, NASA selected the companies that will be in charge with creating tipping point technologies for sending new spacecraft to the Moon and safely landing them there.

Nonetheless, the Russians are not talking about lunar exploration but about a Moon colony which would mean people living on the Earth's natural satellite for long periods, which is somewhat different from what NASA has in mind at the moment and more similar to what Elon Musk and SpaceX have in plan for Mars. The company is now developing a "Peregrine Lander" aimed at orbital and surface operations for any lunar destination.

NASA is still deciding what it wants to launch, but Bridenstine stresses that this effort is being driven by science and that is why SMD is leading it, rather than the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD).

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

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