In November last year, NASA Aerospace Agency selected 9 private aerospace companies that can compete for the right to develop and deliver robotized spacecraft, scientific equipment and other tools to the Moon under the new Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, aimed not only at return, but also fixing the US on Earth's satellite. On Thursday, the agency made an announcement, turning to the US aerospace industry for help in building vehicles that would deliver astronauts to the lunar surface in 2028.
Before a person sets foot on the lunar surface again, in 2024, NASA is going to send an unmanned spacecraft to the satellite. The agency has already announced a competition among private companies to create a probe with a deadline for applications to be March 25, 2019.
“If everything depended only on our desire, then we would like to fly there already this calendar year. Nevertheless, we are focused on the speedy fulfillment of the tasks we have set, ”said Thomas Zurbuchen, assistant administrator of NASA for science during the“ industry meeting ”held in Washington with representatives of the US space industry.
The adviser added that during the first phase of the program, the agency would transfer “several contracts” to various companies costing from 300 thousand to nine million dollars and would be ready to take certain risks in order to accelerate the beginning of the development of the program aimed at commercial cooperation in matters related to flights to the moon.
“We don’t expect that every launch and every moon landing will be successful. We take great risks, but this risk is justified, ”added Zurbuchen.
The nine companies that the agency selected in November last year to help implement the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program were Astrobotic, Deep Space Systems, Draper, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin Space, Masten Space Systems, Moon Express and Orbit Beyond. All of them on a competitive basis will be able to take an active part in the development and maintenance of a wide variety of agency projects related to the creation and development of lunar infrastructure, the solution of scientific and other issues. For example, within the framework of some tasks, scientific equipment will be developed and sent to the Moon, which will be used to solve problems related to various scientific riddles of the Earth satellite. Others will develop and deliver equipment for searching and extracting the natural resources of the moon, as well as various demonstration technologies that will ultimately help establish a human settlement on the satellite.
Of course, the most important lunar resource that NASA is interested in, at least at this stage, is water, the main reserves of which are contained in the form of ice deposits in the constantly darkened areas of the polar craters of the satellite. In addition, significant water reserves are contained in pyroclastic rock throughout the Moon. Access to this resource will allow not only to create a human settlement on the satellite, meeting the needs of future colonists, but also to use it for the production of hydrogen and oxygen, the main components of rocket fuel.
As the Space.com portal notes, the CLPS program is only part of NASA’s more extensive Moon exploration plan, in which priority is given to an open architecture aimed at working with many commercial and international partners.
Commercial vehicles are not the only thing NASA would like to see on the moon. One of the most important tasks of the new program is the creation of a small near-moon orbital station Gateway, the construction of which the agency plans to begin in 2022. The station is intended to become a kind of hub, with the help of which a variety of space missions will be carried out in the future. It is planned to be used both for unmanned and manned scientific expeditions, including using unmanned and manned landing lunar modules, and as a “transit point” for sending missions to deeper space.
The last person who was on the moon was Eugene Cernan, who visited her in December 1972 as part of the Apollo 17 mission. NASA wants to return to Earth's satellite in 2028, after 56 years. However, the agency is not going to simply repeat the success of the Apollo mission, setting the American flag on the moon and returning to Earth.
“We plan to return to the moon as soon as possible using private companies, and our initiative is fully supported by President Donald Trump. I hope that we will be there in 2028. But this time forever. We are not going to leave flags and traces on the moon, and then return home and wait 50 years, ”commented James Brydenstein, who heads NASA.
According to Brydenstein, the exploration of the moon will be a very important stage in the development and implementation of the capabilities of manned flights to Mars. At the same time, this is not the only reason why the United States so aspire to the moon. China and Russia breathe in the back, who also expressed their desire to gain a foothold on the Earth satellite. Russia is considering the possibility of a first manned flight to the Moon and the start of construction of a lunar base in 2031 and 2034, respectively. China is going to send a man to Earth satellite about a year earlier. Celestial also wants to establish a base there.
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