NASA selects nine companies to compete for Moon funding program

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CLPS stands for Commercial Lunar Payload Services.

"The relatively small and affordable payloads delivered via the CLPS program would be followed by more traditional medium- and large-class missions", said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.

Among the nine mostly small start-up companies selected by NASA is one large defence contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp.

Those companies are Astrobotic, Deep Space Systems, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin, Mastern Space Systems, Moon Express, Draper and Orbit Beyond.

How will they help NASA?

"The Commercial Lunar Payload Services contracts are indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts with a combined maximum contract value of $2.6 billion during the next 10 years", said a NASA statement. These services will launch from Earth and land on the moon, and NASA will just be "one customer of many customers", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on Thursday.

The approach will allow NASA to cut costs, Bridenstine said. These missions could begin as early as 2019.

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The space agency has predicted human presence on the moon within a decade, joining landers and rovers working there, Bridenstine said.

Replying to the President's call, and consistent with the NASA Transition Authorisation Act of 2017, NASA submitted to Congress a plan to revitalise and add direction to NASA's enduring objective.

NASAs Science Mission Directorate (SMD) initiated the request for proposals leading to these selections as the first step in achieving a variety of science and technology objectives that could be addressed by regularly sending instruments, experiments and other small payloads to the Moon.

"At the Council of RAS on space today discussed the complex concept of a common program of research and exploration of the moon, a sequence of automatic devices "Moon-25", "Luna-26", "Luna-27" - to the manned program, then the unfolding of the stations on the moon, observatories".

It was reported earlier that Roscosmos and the Russian Academy of Sciences within three months form the lunar program Russia and submit it to the President and the government. The last manned US spacecraft to touch down on the moon was Apollo 17.

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