NASA Chief Scolded Musk Over Pot Smoking

Pablo Tucker
December 1, 2018

Following a directive signed past year by President Trump, the aerospace administration launched the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.

The decision marks a stark change in NASA's mode of operation when it comes to America's Moon aspirations - though private companies have been used for years to ferry gear to the International Space Station, and SpaceX and Boeing are working on spacecraft to carry astronauts to the Moon as early as 2019. "We want to assure payload customers who select Lockheed Martin can be confident that we'll deliver on-time and on-budget".

Last week NASA announced that the first uncrewed test by SpaceX is tentatively scheduled for January 7, but Bridenstine said on Thursday that the date is unlikely to stick and may slide into spring. During Council meetings, U.S. 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 USA government, the Vice President being the Chairman. "We've never done anything that fast", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, which manages the contracts with these firms.

NASA is in the process of identifying payloads that could fly on those payloads. The agency has already called for the development of instrumentation and other lunar-focused technologies.

Masten Space Systems is developing the XL-1 lander for CLPS. An "on-ramping" provision will allow the agency to select other companies to join over the course of the CLPS program.

The good news for the companies concerned is that they are now eligible to bid for "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity" contracts with a combined maximum value of $2.6bn during the next 10 years.

"This is a venture capital kind of effort", he told reporters Thursday.

"We're doing something that's never been done before", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. Our portfolio is larger, so we can take more risks and get it done fast. Afterwards some of the companies discussed details about their planned lander systems.

Of the group, the only well-known name is aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, which has a long track record of success with NASA and built the InSight lander that touched down Monday on Mars. In a departure from past practice, the companies own their rockets and spacecraft and can use them for other, non-government missions if a market develops. He said the lander will be able to deliver payloads of up to 100 kilograms. Neither company is among those selected for CLPS eligibility.

Jeff Patton, chief engineering advisor for Orbit Beyond, said the company will transfer the technology for Team Indus' lander so that versions of it can be built in the US, with the company looking at potential facilities in the Cape Canaveral, Florida, area for integration and testing.

NASA Watch's Keith Cowing noted the announcement echoed a similar one 15 years ago in the same room to return to the moon, without much progress since.

He noted that numerous specifics of how CLPS will work have yet to be determined, but he was optimistic about its prospects.

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