NASA Langley Research Center technology helps human exploration of the Moon

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The US President signed the Space Policy Directive in December previous year, officially announcing a return to the lunar surface as the near-term goal of NASA's human space programme.

Through new partnerships with private companies, NASA aims to ramp up its efforts to return to the moon.

The full list of the selected companies: Lockheed Martin, Astrobotic, Moon Express, Masten Space Systems, Deep Space Systems, Draper, Intuitive Machines, Orbit Beyond, and Firefly Aerospace.

The next race to the moon will be a multibillion-dollar competition among private companies - including Cambridge-based Draper.

Speak to reporters this week, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stated that Elon Musk smoking weed during an appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast "did not inspire confidence", the Atlantic reports.

Payloads, or the instruments and pieces of technology, could fly as early as 2019.

In December 2017, President Donald Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1, ordering NASA to "refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery". This includes encouraging private investment where possible and shifting sights to lunar science, including the Gateway Lunar Orbital Platform and a human return to the Moon in the short term. CLPS is a multi-award contract worth $2.6 billion over the course of its 10 year performance period. Its team is comprised of space tech and support services for the Nasa programme. Meanwhile, a startup called Orbit Beyond is in the running for NASA's moon payloads, and it's working with TeamIndus, the Indian spaceflight company that nearly won the Lunar X Prize competition.

What? Is NASA going to the moon?

Bridenstine confirmed he ordered safety reviews of SpaceX and Boeing, another NASA contractor, after Musk smoked on the podcast, but he said that was always the plan.

NASA has a plan for astronauts to orbit the moon in 2023 and return to the surface by the late 2020s using a lunar lander.

A layout of NASA's Moon to Mars mission.

"Today's announcement marks tangible progress in America's return to the Moon's surface to stay", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement published on November 29.

Bridenstine stated that he had "a number of conversations" with Musk about his actions and erratic behavior over the past year.

NASA hasn't landed anything on the moon, the final mission of the agency's crewed lunar exploration program.

Most of the nine companies approved for bidding say they will not be ready to begin operations until at least 2021.

Of the group, the only well-known name is aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, which has a long track record of success with NASA and built the InSight lander that touched down Monday on Mars. "We know we need that kind of BFR - and whatever evolves from New Glenn - heavy-lift capability if we're going to do human exploration of the solar system".

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