NASA looks to outsource Moon delivery services

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The last manned US spacecraft to touch down on the moon was Apollo 17 in 1972.

NASA has announced that nine United States space companies are now eligible to bid on its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts. But it isn't exclusively relying on the political bureaucracy to achieve this ambitious project - they're now partnering with the private sector to explore the stars.

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.

"Today's announcement marks tangible progress in America's return to the Moon's surface to stay", Bridenstine said. "That legacy continues as we return to the moon and beyond with CLPS".

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

Moon Express, a privately funded USA 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.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's smoking weed on a livestreamed podcast in September "was not appropriate behavior", according to The Atlantic. Some of those companies are also included in the current list.

In addition, Orbit Beyond will use the lander developed by Team Indus, the India-based company that was one of the prize's finalists. "The implementation of the lunar program will be held in several stages until 2040", wrote the Russian federal space agency (Translated from Russian).

Hot on the heels of successfully landing a spacecraft on Mars on November 26, NASA officials explained it will partner with nine private companies who "will compete to deliver experiments to the lunar surface", the Associated Press reported Thursday.

CLPS missions may launch and land as early as 2019, . Maintaining a permanent human presence in lunar orbit will require a lot of support services that NASA can't handle on its own. Astrobotic and Moon Express were founded with the aim of winning that prize.

NASA is building a super-heavy-lift rocket called the to send astronauts back to the moon.

The McCandless Lunar Lander is named after the late astronaut and former Lockheed Martin employee Bruce McCandless.

The lander is based on designs for Martian landers the company produced for NASA, including the InSight lander that touched down on Mars Nov. 26.

Who else might be involved?

NASA might also reinstate instruments from the canceled Resource Prospector lunar mining mission.

NASA hopes to test-launch the first Block 1 rocket in June 2020 on a flight called Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1).

SpaceX and NASA did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

The bad news? There is no guarantee NASA will actually award anything at all. About $10 million of that sum was meant to help ULA develop systems that would enable long-duration moon missions.