NASA is eager to get back to the surface of the moon.
In November, the agency tagged nine American companies as eligible to bid on delivering robotic NASA payloads to the moon, via Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts. Thursday (Feb. 14), NASA officials announced that the first "task order" for such a delivery will likely come out in a month or so — and that flight is expected to follow in relatively short order.
"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. [21 Most Marvelous Moon Missions of All Time]
"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.
NASA is willing to take some risks in these early days to help spur the development of the CLPS program and the commercial lunar-delivery business as a whole, he said, adding: "We do not expect that every one of those launches, or every one of those landings, will be successful."
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.