Pittsburgh’s Astrobotic Technology Among Companies Eligible To Bid On Moon Mission Contracts

Nasa chief Jim Bridenstine elaborated this week on the reasons why the United States space agency launched a safety review of SpaceX and Boeing, which are building spaceships for astronauts, including their workplace culture and drug-free policies. Moon landers would carry scientific experiments to the lunar surface as well as scouting potential moon base locations, most likely in the darkened craters at the moon's poles that are filled with frozen water.

The picture of McCandless floating by himself in the blackness of space, with the blue Earth in the background, is one of NASA's most iconic.

Within the partnerships, NASA will be one of many customers who will use lunar services such as rocket rides, Bridenstine said.

The goal is to get small science and technology experiments to the surface of the moon as soon as possible.

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

"We are excited to leverage our interplanetary lander designs and experience to help NASA build a new economy on and around the Moon, and beyond", Lisa Callahan, a Lockheed Martin vice president, said in a statement.

NASA is moving forward with plans to put the USA back in the business of moon visits. The initial deliveries likely will include radiation monitors, laser reflectors for gravity and other measurements.

The partnering companies were announced during a press conference held at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., which was streamed live on NASA TV. NASA may also use the competition to solicit created to take people to and from the lunar surface in the late 2020s.

A replica of the Mars InSight lander at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, showing instruments used to study the planet.

Much like NASA's Commercial Resupply Services and Commercial Crew Program, NASA wouldn't own these vehicles, it would purchase their services from the firms that produced them. The agency now partners with the private sector for other missions, including human transport to the International Space Station (ISS) wherein SpaceX and Boeing are developing capsules for that objective, and the Directive expands that to include deep space missions. SpaceX and Northrop Grumman have made ISS shipments since 2012. It expects to start hearing proposals by January.

NASA has picked nine companies, ranging from startups to aerospace giants, to be eligible for future contracts to deliver payloads to the surface of the moon, but with no guarantee of business for any of them. The company was part of the Apollo moon missions that began in the '60s.

Orbit Beyond: A New Jersey-based company building spacecraft bound for the Moon.

The warning comes about a week after reports suggesting that NASA would conduct reviews of workplace culture at both SpaceX and Boeing. Expectations should not exceed 50 percent, Zurbuchen stressed.

  • Joey Payne