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In fact, NASA is testing all options for the Moon – including prices



  NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, on the far right, visits the Blue Origin facilities on May 23, 2019 near the Florida agency's Kennedy Space Center.
Enlarge / Full-Right NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Visits These Facilities Blue Origin's facilities near the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida opened on May 23, 2019.

NASA

On Thursday, Newt Gingrich, former US spokesman for Newt Gingrich, broadened his ideas to accelerate billions of dollars in prizes. The goal of the Trump administration is to bring people to the moon by 2024 and then send it to Mars by 2030. He launched the idea of ​​promoting commercial space travel as an alternative solution to the current NASA plans for using the Orion spacecraft and space launch system.

"To put it bluntly, our proposal does not suggest canceling a current proposal," Gingrich wrote. "It suggests that for the cost of one – or at most two – SLS launches, it could be possible to encourage competition, land on the moon in less time and for less money, and begin the moon's development. It is based on the principle of "If no one is able to reach the moon and develop it, the taxpayer would not pay a penny."

The basic idea is that SpaceX, Blue Origin, or another company would be capable Regardless of whether they develop their own launch systems (such as SpaceX's Starship or Blue Origin's New Glenn) and then land people on the moon, they receive a $ 2 billion or more payment for the achievement , This would provide a hedging option if NASA's existing plans for the Artemis program, which is more traditional in terms of contracting and is expected to cost at least US $ 30 billion, will be delayed or budget exceeded.

In response to Gingrich's suggestion, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said he had not rejected the concept of pricing to advance NASA's exploration targets.

"We at NASA are currently pursuing similar plans," he said. "My first initiative as a NASA administrator was the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, which promotes commercial launches to the moon and leverages legacy Google Lunar X Prize companies, which could increase CLPS and upgrade additional companies for larger payloads.

In the last few months, after Vice President Mike Pence commissioned NASA to land a human on the moon by 2024, Bridenstine made a number of reflections in the last few months. Different ideas and new methods, but the administrator also has to deal with that Congress working together to create the NASA budget. Therefore, he was somewhat limited in the ability to implement radical changes, as Gingrich – who has the ear of the Trump White official's House – has suggested.

Cash on Delivery

At the beginning of the year, Bridenstine had talked with companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin about COD deliveries to the Moon for large cargo missions. NASA will pay up to $ 7 billion for multiple logistics "Gateway Logistics Services" Scientific deliver results rgo and deliver from the middle of 2024 a Lunar Gateway, before the crew is ready later in the year. Along the way, the agency will make "milestone" payments, similar to the contracts NASA of SpaceX and Boeing have signed for the commercial crew program for the flight of astronauts to the International Space Station.

However, Bridenstine is still an important partner interested in paying companies only when delivering services. "I'm definitely looking forward to recruiting her for the idea that we all seem to support," he said.

SpaceX welcomed results-oriented programs that will allow the agency to cut costs and meet the tight 2024 schedule for landing on the moon. "For NASA, it makes sense to look at the pros and cons of milestone payments versus a lump sum price for a large cargo landing on the moon – both would work for us," said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Ars.

] What seems to be clear is that this is a new era for NASA: just this summer, NASA has awarded contracts for the construction of two elements of the Lunar Gateway, in addition to the commercial supply program for Gateway Logistics bought three rides for small scientific payloads to NASA moon of commercial companies, and the industry has been able to propose their own ideas on how astronauts can best be brought from Moongate to the Moon. All of this happens with "fixed price" contracts where companies pay for performance, rather than large additional fees in addition to the cost.

The truly powerful traditional aerospace companies, accustomed to governmental over-cost contracts such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman, still have a tremendous impact over the shape of space policy, notably through lobbying in Congress. But this summer, Bridenstine has taken steps to work with non-traditional partners if they have better solutions. Maybe he has not fully adopted the concept of the X price, he seems to be moving in that direction.

In short, he follows Pence's advice when the vice-president said in March, "I urge NASA to adopt new policies and accept new ways of thinking, and if our current contractors can not achieve that, we will find them who can do it. "


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