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.
NASA has selected nine companies that will be allowed to compete for a share of up to $2.6 billion over the next 10 years to build and launch instruments, experiments and small robotic payloads to the moon.
Instead of running a government-funded space program, like Apollo, the U.S. space agency will buy services, essentially becoming a customer to private businesses that build their own spacecraft.
"What they bring to their consortium is tried and tested navigation systems", said Chad Anderson, chief executive of Space Angels, a NY investment firm that finances space-oriented startups.
"We believe that there is a lot of fantastic science that we can do on the surface of the Moon", Bridenstine said.
The CLPS missions would be the agency's first such partnership in deep space. Flights could begin as soon as next year, and NASA officials are aiming for two a year, or about 20 in all.
"The reality is, we're getting ready to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil for the first time since 2011, and we want to make sure we have a cultural assessment, a safety assessment of each of our providers", he said. It is still unknown which company will develop the missiles to fly to the moon.
As part of NASA's plan to return to the Moon, CLPS is leveraging existing private sector services like Astrobotic to deliver their cargo shipments to the Moon.
During preparation for the first lunar missions in the 1960s, NASA tapped Draper for development of guidance, navigation and control systems.
Meanwhile, NASA is planning to go back to the moon too and has recently partnered with nine private firms to help it achieve its goal.
Draper is a not-for-profit which was involved with the Apollo Moon landings. "At the end of the day the risk is high, but the return is also very high for a low investment".
Talking about Musk's past behaviour, Bridenstine said he had spoken with Musk.
Prior to the announcement, Bridenstine spoke on The Hill TV's "Rising" program, emphasizing the goal of the Space Policy Directive's mission to build the capabilities of not only returning to the Moon, but stay as a sustained presence.