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NASA: Private Companies to Make Next Moon Landing

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The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, has announced that private companies will make America's next moon landing.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Thursday that nine American companies will compete to carry experiments to the surface of the moon.

"(The) announcement marks tangible progress in America's return to the Moon's surface to stay," Bridenstine said.

The space agency said in a statement the goal is to bring many science and technology experiments to the moon as soon as possible. The first such flight could come as early as next year.

In 2019, NASA and people across the United States will mark the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon. The last time humans visited the moon was in 1972, during NASA's Apollo 17 mission.

Scientist-Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt is photographed working beside a huge boulder at Station 6 during the third Apollo 17 extravehicular activity at the Taurus-Littrow lunar landing site, Dec. 13, 1972. (AP Photo/NASA)
Scientist-Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt is photographed working beside a huge boulder at Station 6 during the third Apollo 17 extravehicular activity at the Taurus-Littrow lunar landing site, Dec. 13, 1972. (AP Photo/NASA)

NASA officials say the goal of the planned spaceflight is to transport equipment for performing experiments and collecting information about the moon. Some of the companies are expected to develop small launch vehicles or robotic rovers to explore its surface.

The research is meant to help get astronauts back to the moon more quickly and keep them safer once they arrive.

Thomas Zurbuchen is head of NASA's science mission directorate, which leads the new flight efforts. "We're going at high speed," he said.

The space agency says it will award a total of $2.6 billion to private businesses for the moon effort over the next 10 years. Bridenstine said that NASA wants a lot of companies involved to strengthen competition. He also said he expects to have people regularly working on the moon within 10 years.

NASA Administrator James Bridenstine delivers remarks as he tours the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
NASA Administrator James Bridenstine delivers remarks as he tours the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The new partnership is modeled after another NASA program that uses private companies to transport supplies to the International Space Station, or ISS. SpaceX and Northrop Grumman have made ISS shipments since 2012. SpaceX and Boeing are planning to start transporting astronauts to the space station sometime next year.

NASA has said it expects work on a new space station laboratory to start as soon as 2022. The new space station would orbit the moon. But it is also expected to serve as a launching point for missions to other parts of the solar system, including the planet Mars.

This illustration made available by NASA in 2018 shows the InSight lander drilling into Mars.
This illustration made available by NASA in 2018 shows the InSight lander drilling into Mars.

The announcement on future moon flights came just three days after NASA successfully landed its InSight spacecraft on Mars. The InSight lander was built by Lockheed Martin, a private U.S. company. The lander is designed to explore under the surface, studying the geology of the planet and seeking signs of Martian earthquakes.

I'm Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English. His report is based on information from the Associated Press, Reuters and NASA. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

tangible adj. something real that can be seen, touched or measured

rover n. small vehicle that can move over rough ground, often used on the surface of other planets

regularlyadj. something done repeatedly or often

missionn. a project or operation

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