NASA is speeding up plans backed by President Donald Trump to return to the moon, using private companies. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said: "It’s important that we get back to the Moon as soon as possible. “This time when we go to the Moon, we’re actually going to stay. "We’re not going to leave flags and footprints and then come home and not go back for another 50 years.” Speaking to reporters at NASA’s Washington base of operations, Bridenstine said NASA will lead a “sustainable” space race to the Moon with the aid of private companies.
The Trump administration has said a return to the moon is a top priority. And NASA this month announced a plan to develop spacecraft capable of bringing humans to the lunar surface by 2028.
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In November last year, NASA tagged nine American companies as eligible to bid on delivering robotic NASA payloads to the moon. "For us, if we had any wish, I would like to fly this calendar year," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said during a webcast "media roundtable" at agency headquarters in Washington. "We care about speed. We want to start taking shots on goal," Zurbuchen said, noting that NASA will provide the eligible companies with financial incentives to get off the ground faster.
The nine companies NASA selected in November are Astrobotic, Deep Space Systems, Draper, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin Space, Masten Space Systems, Moon Express and Orbit Beyond.
One of the most critical pieces of this plan is a small space station, called the Gateway, which NASA aims to start building in lunar orbit in 2022. Gateway will be a hub for many kinds of lunar exploration, including sorties to the surface by landers both crewed and uncrewed, Space.com reported.
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On June 3, China landed a spacecraft on the farther side of the moon. This month, an Israeli spacecraft destined for the moon is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla. If successful, it would make Israel the fourth country, after the United States, Russia and China, to land a spacecraft on the lunar surface.