NASA is ready to send astronauts back to the moon for the first time in more than 40 years.It won’t be doing it alone, however. The agency is enlisting nine companies, large and small, to compete for a combined maximum contract value of $2.6 billion over the next 10 years.
NASA released the list of names today, including aerospace stalwart Lockheed Martin, along with Astrobotic Technology, Deep Space Systems, Draper, Firefly Aerospace, Texas Intuitive Machines, LLC, Masten Space Systems, Inc., Moon Express and Orbit Beyond — all American companies.
“Today’s announcement marks tangible progress in America’s return to the Moon’s surface to stay,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a press release. “The innovation of America’s aerospace companies, wedded with our big goals in science and human exploration, are going to help us achieve amazing things on the Moon and feed forward to Mars.”
Baby steps. The teams will start with lunar payload missions, which could kick off as early as next year. Learnings from that first crop will be used to inform future missions to the moon and, eventually, Mars.