For the first time in five years, Blue Origin and four other companies were awarded a combined $6.8 million from NASA’s Lunar Lander program to keep their dreams alive for landing on the Moon and returning back to Earth with Blue Origin and its teammates winning $4.5 million of that funding. Blue is one of only two American companies competing for the next round of awards under this lunar lander competition, which will be announced later this month at Space Symposium 2016 in Colorado Springs.
A team of former NASA employees has announced a new space venture, with backing from Microsoft billionaire Charles Simonyi and others. World View is developing a fleet of high-altitude balloons that will take customers to the edge of space for about $75,000 per ticket.
Draper Laboratory has been awarded a $2 million contract by NASA to develop and mature the technology for inflatable decelerators (ID) and their integration with the SuperDraco thruster.
The VASIMR concept envisions a future spacecraft powered by a plasma-based rocket engine, which can propel astronauts and equipment faster and farther on interplanetary missions.
At the SpaceVision 2013 conference, SpaceX founder Elon Musk stated that he believed it to be much more affordable to colonize Mars as a spin-off of creating a human presence on the Moon first. In October 2016, at the 67th annual meeting of the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, Musk announced an ambitious plan to build large spaceships capable of transporting at least 100 people and cargo per flight and land them safely on Mars by 2022. “If we can establish a Mars colony…”
Musk stated, “we can almost certainly colonize the entire Solar System, because we’ll have created a strong economic forcing function for the improvement of space travel.”
NASA has announced plans to build an outpost near the Moon’s south pole. This new base would serve as a lunar launching pad for missions to Mars and beyond by the 2030s. The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway would be built using NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, both of which are in development.
The first mission planned was originally set to launch around 2022 with more following every two years after that. However, on 20 March 2018 Vice President Mike Pence announced that U.S. plans to return Americans to the Moon now include establishing a permanent presence on the surface. This means that for this new Moon-base, NASA is looking towards commercial companies to cover some of the costs instead.