At this point, it’s a pretty safe bet to assume that humans are going back to the moon. However, it won’t likely be NASA that sends them there. The next moon landing is probably going to be accomplished by a private company.
In fact, it would seem that there are 9 private companies in the United States alone that are currently competing for the honor of sending experiments to the moon. NASA will apparently be purchasing the “services” of whichever company ultimately wins the bid, but that respective company will be doing all of the heavy lifting.
The timing is quite fortuitous, too. 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of NASA’s epic moon landing achievement, and we could have new experiments landing on the lunar surface as early as next year. Representatives at NASA have said that things are moving at a high rate of speed, and they’re wanting to get the new lunar missions going as soon as possible.
The first in a long line of goals will be to get astronauts back on the surface of the moon. The immediate research and experiments will help come up with a way to get them there quickly and keep them safe once they’re on the surface. That said, many of the initial lunar missions involve delivering things like gravitational measurement tools and radiation detectors.
The moon missions will likely serve as a kind of training program for future missions to Mars. NASA just recently landed a spacecraft on the Red Planet. Testing “delivery services” on the surface of the moon will be vital before the same missions are attempted with Mars.
This isn’t the first case of NASA partnering with private companies to make deliveries in space. The government agency has been working with SpaceX for some time now to deliver equipment and supplies to the International Space Station.
So, what are all of these missions going to cost? Right now, the estimates put the mission costs around $2.6 billion.
As mentioned above, there are currently nine companies competing for the work with NASA. Those companies are Technology Inc., Orbit Beyond, Deep Space Systems, Moon Express, Draper, Masten Space Systems Inc., Firefly Aerospace Inc., Lockheed Martin, and Intuitive Machines.