Published: Sun, December 02, 2018
Science | By Patricia Jimenez

Lockheed, Draper among NASA partners for new lunar payload services

Lockheed, Draper among NASA partners for new lunar payload services

It was was founded in 2008 by Carnegie Mellon University professor Red Whitaker, and is developing robots to operate on the moon and other planets.

NASA along with Musk's SpaceX and Boeing is developing transportation systems that would allow the U.S. to fly astronauts from American soil for the first time since the space shuttle was retired in 2011.

NASA's going back to the moon. That will depend on the success of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.

"Right now we're building a space station, we call it 'Gateway, ' that's going to be in orbit around the moon - think of it as a reusable command module where we can have human presence in orbit around the moon", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told The Hill.

The approach is unusual for NASA, said Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who said NASA usually maintains control down to the "last rivet of a spacecraft". Missions could feasibly begin as early as 2019.

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Moon Express, a privately funded US commercial space company founded in 2010 with the goal of providing low cost, frequent access to the Moon for science, exploration and commerce while seeking new resources to benefit Earth.

In a blog and a subsequent news conference, NASA announced that it would be allowing nine different companies to bid on "NASA delivery services to the lunar surface".

"We're trying to very quickly develop an American capability to deliver small payloads to the surface of the moon and then grow from there", Bridenstine said during the announcement. The goal of returning to the moon is to determine what kind of resources are there and study its composition to help us better understand the formation of the Solar System.

Before NASA returns humans to the moon, however, the space agency plans to send an array of scientific payloads - science experiments, in other words - to the lunar surface.

Thomas Zurbuchen is head of NASA's science mission directorate, which leads the new flight efforts. "That foil collected material from the sun and provided the best measurements of the sun we had for the next 25 years".

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We'll wait and see.

Soon after the mandate was presented, NASA submitted a plan to Congress called the National Space Exploration Campaign, echoing Trump's remarks. Bridenstine insisted that this time things would be different.

Notably absent from the list are SpaceX and Boeing, though NASA recently ordered a safety review of the two companies, both of which are working to launch crewed missions.

The flag of the United States of America remains the only territorial banner on the Moon's surface.

Landing actual astronauts on the Moon probably won't happen until the end of the 2020s, NASA has said. Some of the elements are now under construction on Earth.

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The ultimate goal of Commercial Crew is to revive U.S. spaceflight capabilities that the agency lost when it retired the space shuttle fleet in 2011.

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