In a first, NASA is outsourcing its next moon lander to a private company

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. They include longtime players in the aerospace industry, like Lockheed Martin, but are mostly newer names with start-up cultures, such as Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic and Masten Space Systems in Mojave, Calif.

The Commercial Lunar Payload Services program is a priority of NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who said in May that leveraging commercial capabilities would allow for more frequent and affordable access to the lunar surface. “More missions, more science,” a news release about the CLPS program promised.

It also continues a trend at NASA toward public-private partnerships for exploration. Under President George W. Bush, companies were awarded contracts to fly cargo to the International Space Station. The Commercial Crew Program, developed under President Barack Obama, will pay companies to transport human crews.

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