NASA selects nine U.S. companies to vie for moon program funding

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NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will make the announcement today at 2 PM EST which will also be broadcast live on NASA's website.

The head of NASA Jim Breidenstein said that the United States intends to get back to the moon and it will happen, according to him, very soon.

While President Barack Obama told NASA to focus on sending astronauts to Mars, largely bypassing the moon, the Trump administration has made the moon a priority, although astronauts would likely not arrive until late in the 2020s.

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing.

Characterizing the USA race to the moon "a fledgling industry", he said NASA will rely heavily on the private companies' research and will be affordable.

NASA will re-examine the private market periodically for new and emerging lunar delivery capabilities, and may offer additional companies an opportunity to join Commercial Lunar Payload Services through a contract process called on-ramping. "These missions pave the way for a human return to the moon, as well as enable human exploration of Mars and beyond".

In Paris, the French space agency CERN said everything seems fine for the moment, and that it is up to Nasa to communicate with the SEIS quake-sensing instrument.

Under Space Policy Directive-1, the agency will lead an innovative and sustainable exploration of the Moon together with commercial and global partners. President Donald Trump wants USA astronauts to return to the Moon as a foundation for future Mars missions.

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CLPS will encourage smaller companies to develop 1,100- to 2,200-pound robotic landers that can deliver NASA's scientific payloads to the moon's surface.

NASA also announced that the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program will be driven by the agency's Science Mission Directorate.

He added that he was the one who called for the safety review, announced November 20, of the two companies tasked with building the spacecraft that will enable Americans once again to send people to space - a capacity the U.S. lost in 2011 with the retirement of the space shuttle program.

Both SpaceX and Boeing hold multibillion-dollar contracts to fly NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Most of the companies involved have never flown a spacecraft of this complexity and scale, and Bridenstine acknowledged that some of the CLPS missions will likely fail to achieve a "soft" landing on the lunar surface.

Bridenstine said a question that always comes up is whether the culture at NASA contributed to those accidents.

The waist-high spacecraft will stay in place for the two-year duration of its mission.

The program is part of the agency's effort to work with commercial aerospace firms.

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