NASA Seeks to Start Commercial Payload Deliveries to Moon Later This Year

US space agency will begin laying the groundwork for a manned lunar space settlement.

Late last year NASA announced it would be working with nine American companies to deliver payloads to the moon, and now the space agency plans to start launching those payloads into space as early as this year, reports.

The companies awarded the Commercial Payload Services contracts are Astrobotic, Deep Space Systems, Draper, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin Space, Masten Space Systems, Moon Express and Orbit Beyond.

The companies will compete in the coming months to carry a variety of payloads to the moon, including scientific instruments meant to answer the moon’s biggest mysteries as well as tools that will lay the groundwork for humans to eventually settle on the big space rock.

“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 told a media roundtable.

Part of NASA’s broader moon-mission plan is to create a small space station called Gateway that the agency hopes to begin building in lunar orbit as early as 2022.

“This time when we go to the moon,” agency chief Jim Bridenstine says, “we’re actually going to stay.”

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