Unlike past programs where NASA managed every aspect of a space mission, the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program will enable the agency to "buy the service, we're not going to purchase, own and operate the hardware, we're going to buy the service", Bridenstine said. "Our lander design has secured substantial private funding". "We want multiple providers that are competing on cost and innovation".
The Trump administration has cited Moon missions a key element of the 2019 NASA budget. The agency didn't disclose the maximum contract amounts for each company.
Bridenstine told The Atlantic that the audits were done to avoid tragedies similar to those in NASA's history. But they won't be going alone.
Earlier this year, NASA shocked scientists by canceling the Resource Prospector mission, the only American lunar rover now in development. NASA needs to work closely with private enterprise to make the moon missions financially possible.
NASA already is utilizing the private sector on a commercial basis.
Artist's depiction of Masten's XL-1 lander on the surface of the Moon. Neither company is among those selected for CLPS eligibility.
But both of those companies may be heading to the moon, anyway. "Our investment is low because we have other people who are investing", said Bridenstine.
"We're no stranger to commercial space business models, having built more than 100 commercial satellites and launched numerous Atlas and Titan commercial payloads", said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager for Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin. During Council meetings, United States government officials from civilian and military space along with space industry leaders such as SpaceX and Boeing, as well as other significant public and private institutions, hold discussions with high ranking members of the U.S. government, the Vice President being the Chairman. Afterwards some of the companies discussed details about their planned lander systems. Under President George W. Bush, companies were awarded contracts to fly cargo to the International Space Station.
The announcement comes just three days after NASA landed its InSight spacecraft on Mars.
"Lockheed's lander is a little bit larger than some of the others", said Joe Landon, vice president of advanced program development at Lockheed Martin's commercial civil space unit. SpaceIL then hopes to rocket its lander away from Earth and attempt to put it on the moon, arriving on the lunar surface about two months post-launch.
The organization first formed to compete for the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize, but that competition ended without a victor in 2018.
Moon Express; and Orbit Beyond.
"We have been maturing our lander technology over the last 10 years in preparation for this day", Matthew Kuhns chief engineer with Masten Space Systems and SpaceFlight Insider contributor said when asked what this means for Masten.
In an announcement Thursday, the space agency named the organizations that are now eligible to bid on delivering science and technology payloads to the lunar surface.