Draper in space race for $2.6b in NASA moonshot contracts

The tenders will be conducted under NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, which foresees exploration of the Moon's surface and the building of a lunar orbiting station called Gateway, an outpost for astronauts and spacecraft travelling to the Moon, the agency announced on November 29.

NASA hopes that others will use these services as space travel becomes an endeavour accessible to private corporations.

Although Nasa initially declined to confirm media reports that the review was prompted by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's appearance on a filmed podcast in which he was smoking a joint, Bridenstine admitted Thursday, during a roundtable with reporters, it "was not helpful". It does, however, look like for the first time in 45 years, NASA is seriously looking at Moon travel again! This includes encouraging private investment where possible and shifting sights to lunar science, including the Gateway Lunar Orbital Platform and a human return to the Moon in the short term.

In the framework of CLPS, the Agency will award multiple contracts for the lunar mission within the next 10 years.

"The directive I'm signing today will refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery", the president said at the signing ceremony. Now, NASA is contracting out its next moon missions to companies that will do long-term scientific study and experiments. "We've never done anything that fast", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, which manages the contracts with these firms.

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

The Trump administration sees the moon as an opportunity to test technologies as well as new strategies that could reduce the price tag for trips to space, and jump-start new commercial companies. "If you want to learn the age of the solar system, you take samples from the moon and analyze them". Missions could feasibly begin as early as 2019.

"When we go to the moon, we want to be one customer of many customers in a robust marketplace between the Earth and the moon". "We've had a number of conversations..."

Draper is a not-for-profit which was involved with the Apollo Moon landings.

But no U.S. spacecraft has touched down on the Moon since the last Apollo mission in 1972, and it's been exactly 50 years since NASA last sent a robotic mission to the lunar surface.

Then in August, Astrobotic received $10 million from NASA to create a "low-cost, reliable, high-performance, stand-alone" system to land a commercial lunar spacecraft on the moon.

The agency hopes that this new program will help bring the USA back to the surface of the moon.

  • Joe Gonzales