Uncrewed lunar missions could begin launching as early as next year, with the goal of sending two payloads to the lunar surface every year for the next 10 years. Its multi-year plan looks to deliver several small payloads of instruments and rovers to the surface of the Moon with manned missions planned for later.
Comparing future bids, NASA will study the technical feasibility, price and schedules offered by the nine companies. The last manned USA spacecraft to touch down on the moon was Apollo 17.
Including partners in their moon plans will allow NASA to launch more frequent, cost-effective trips to the moon, which means that more frequent experiments will be able to land, Bridenstine said.
Later, reusable landers that go back and forth to the surface of the moon will be used to ensure continuous human presence there which they aim to achieve within the next decade. Some of those companies are also included in the current list.
The Space Policy Directive was born from the recommendations provided during the first meeting of the new National Space Council, a group under the US Department of Commerce's Office of Space Commerce. Some of its current technology developments include a universal reentry vehicle and a lunar lander.More news: 76ers expect Markelle Fultz to return, play role off bench
Bridenstine said he ordered safety reviews of SpaceX and Boeing, another NASA contractor - which were first reported by The Washington Post earlier this month - but stressed that he had wanted the reviews of their corporate culture before Musk was filmed smoking weed.
The agency is also conducting a review of SpaceX and Boeing to assess the cultures of the government contractors. "We've never done anything that fast", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, which manages the contracts with these firms. Bridenstine insisted that this time things would be different. When asked by Marina Koren from the Atlantic if the videos of Musk's drug use was a red flag in terms of SpaceX's ability to handle the NASA mission, Bridenstine replied: "I think those were not helpful".
The number 7 was chosen for the new craft because Draper-guided spacecraft made six round trips to the moon between 1969 and 1972, during the Apollo program.
Nine selected companies are now eligible to bid on contracts that will deliver services to the moon.
He added that he was the one who called for the safety review, announced November 20, of the two companies tasked with building the spacecraft that will enable Americans once again to send people to space - a capacity the USA lost in 2011 with the retirement of the space shuttle program.