According to Bridenstine, the selection of private firms for the Moon mission is part of President Trump's Space Policy Directive 1, directing NASA to go to the Moon with commercial partners. "It marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 for long-term exploration and use".
He also clearly loves being in the spotlight, and those two things don't necessarily mix well when one of your biggest partners is the US space program. The space agency will hire one of these nine companies to build the spacecraft that will carry the agency's equipment and experiments to the moon.
It's also unknown what NASA would do if SpaceX launches its first unmanned missions to Mars with BFR in 2022, followed by the first crewed missions to the red planet in 2024. In a news release, NASA said that "w$3 orking with us companies is the next step to achieving long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and Mars". Carpooling to the Moon - perhaps with academics or another company - should reduce the cost, he said. SpaceX and Northrop Grumman have made ISS shipments since 2012.
Astrobotic Technology is a Pittsburgh-based company.
But with this program, NASA is looking to replicate the success of SpaceX, the private rocket company led by Elon Musk.
"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. NASA may also use the competition to solicit created to take people to and from the lunar surface in the late 2020s.
Among the research projects the companies are working on include radiation monitors, laser reflectors for gravity and measurement devices, said moon project leader Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA science mission head.
"At the end of the decade, we envision a continuous presence of landers, rovers, and robots on the surface of the moon, but not necessarily humans", he added.
The National Space Exploration Campaign calls for human and robotic exploration missions to go beyond the frontiers of human experience and scientific discovery of the natural phenomena of Earth, other worlds, and the cosmos.
Who else might be involved?Presumably, SpaceX or Blue Origin could launch at with a similar capability at a fraction of that price since their vehicles are reusable.
The bad news? There is no guarantee NASA will actually award anything at all. About $10 million of that sum was meant to help ULA develop systems that would enable long-duration moon missions.
How will they help NASA?
The agency plans to stream its briefing via NASA TV, which anyone can watch.