NASA's next lunar science experiments will arrive at the Moon via a spacecraft built by one of nine private companies - a first for one of the agency's science missions.
Mr Bridenstine said Nasa will buy the service and let private industry work out the details on getting there.
"These early commercial delivery missions will also help inform new space systems we build to send humans to the Moon in the next decade", said NASA.
"The Commercial Lunar Payload Services contracts are indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts with a combined maximum contract value of $2.6 billion during the next 10 years", said a NASA statement.
A Cambridge-based nonprofit that created the navigation system for Apollo is competing with private companies across the country to be the next American entity to land on the moon.
"They haven't done spacecraft so this is a bit of a new departure for them", McDowell said.
"We believe that there is a lot of unbelievable science that we can do on the surface of the Moon", Bridenstine said.
"The Artemis-7 design will fly multiple times before its first CLPS mission", said Seamus Tuohy, principal director of space systems at Draper.
Earlier this year, NASA shocked scientists by canceling the Resource Prospector mission, the only American lunar rover now in development. "Were there people that were raising a red flag that we didn't listen to, and ultimately did that culture contribute to the failure and, in those cases, to disaster?" he said.
Musk's smoking weed, Bridenstine said, "was not helpful, and that did not inspire confidence, and the leaders of these organizations need to take that as an example of what to do when you lead an organization that's going to launch American astronauts", according to The Atlantic.
Characterizing the USA race to the moon "a fledgling industry", he said NASA will rely heavily on the private companies' research and will be affordable.
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.
One of the nine companies will be tasked with delivering science and technology payloads to the surface of the Moon for NASA. SpaceX has been a hugely valuable partner for NASA, but launching unmanned cargo ships into space is one thing.
The company is also an official partner with NASA through the Lunar CATALYST Program.