NASA has achieved handfuls of historic milestones within the last year. However, its primary mission now remains that of putting humans on the moon once more. And, after sharing a sole partnership with Elon Musk-owned space company, SpaceX, the space agency has announced its plans to add a second, competing company to the roster.
At a Glance:
- NASA has raised the stakes for commercial companies amid its current moon mission.
- NASA has exclusively worked with SpaceX for its current moon mission until now.
- SpaceX would have to work alongside the second space company in efforts to “build on past progress.”
Space Companies Face ‘Competition’ Amid NASA Moon Mission
According to The Hill, NASA announced it would add a secondary commercial space company to its roster on Wednesday. The space agency’s administrator, Bill Nelson, said NASA will soon allow companies to compete in efforts to develop a second lunar lander.
“I promised competition,” he concluded, “so here it is.”
In addition to SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rival, Jeff Bezos, and Blue Origin will have the opportunity to attain a NASA partnership. Another company taking a stab at the NASA partnership is defense contractor Dynetics.
Of the space agency’s latest decision, Dynetics released a statement that said it was “pleased to learn of NASA’s plans.”
Simultaneously, Blue Origin said it “was thrilled that NASA is creating competition by procuring a second human lunar landing system.”
NASA originally secured its partnership with SpaceX because, as per the outlet, the other two companies had reportedly submitted more costly proposals.
Nevertheless, despite NASA’s encouragement for competition, Nelson emphasized that the two companies must work “in conjunction” with each other to further space development as a whole.
He stated the project could not remain isolated and that, “Each is going to build on the past progress.”
Budgeting Issues Hold Up Lunar Exploration
NASA’s had a hard go of it in recent years, which partially explains its sole partnership with SpaceX. According to The Hill, the national space agency’s sole partnership with SpaceX was previously due to funding issues.
Additionally, funding issues have kept NASA from developing lunar landing vessels themselves. This has forced them to outsource to companies such as SpaceX, and now, potentially, Blue Origin or Dynetics. Instead, the new system, which boasts a “fixed-price contract” with private companies, results in a lower price point overall.
As if not a blow in itself, NASA’s ambitions for getting humans back on the moon see further delay.
In a recent spending bill, Congress awarded the national space agency a little more than $24 billion. As per the news source, that’s $760 million less than originally requested by the White House. As a result of the reduced funding package, NASA and its moon mission continue to see delays.