NASA Opens The Door To Commercial Moon Landing, Including Two Colorado Companies

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Photo: Lockheed Martin Lunar Lander NASA
Lockheed Martin's concept for a commercial lunar lander.

Two Colorado companies are getting into the delivery business.

Not the two-day delivery kind, more like the 238,900-mile outer space kind.

NASA is planning to tap the private aerospace industry to take their experiments to the lunar surface. Two of the nine approved bidders are Lockheed Martin and Deep Space Systems.

Lockheed Martin is a well-known industry titan, while Deep Space Systems is a Littleton-based company with just 65 employees.

The "Commercial Lunar Payload Services" contracts are part of President Donald Trump's renewed focus on Moon exploration. The increased traffic to the moon will also practice technology and techniques needed to bring large vehicles and astronauts to Mars.

"Mars is very, very hard to get to," said CU Boulder Professor Jack Burns, who also served on President Trump's transition team for NASA. "The Moon, on the other hand, is nearby. It's only three days away, and the technologies are in hand to begin developing it and to learn how to live and work on an alien, hostile body."

The space agency would likely equip lunar landers with experiments and instruments to test for water and other resources.

"NASA's most interested in bringing scientific payloads and payloads that will help understand the environment of the moon and exploration," Burns said.

Besides NASA missions, Burns said he also expects there to be other customers for the privatized lunar landers. Countries that have space programs and experiments needing testing, but do not have the resources to build their own landers, could hitch a ride. Other private companies could buy in to send their own payloads, Burns said.