That drew the ire of NASA, which launched a safety review of SpaceX and Boeing - the other company partnering with NASA to launch the next-generation manned spacecraft - to ensure that both are following proper safety protocol and setting examples at the top. The goal is to collect valuable scientific data as well as to encourage private-sector development beyond low-Earth orbit.
NASA has not given any specifics for the bidding process, other than to say it will "look at a number of factors when comparing the bids, such as technical feasibility, price and schedule".
"When we go to the moon, we want to be one customer of many customers in a robust marketplace between the Earth and the moon".
"The Commercial Lunar Payload Services contracts are indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts with a combined maximum contract value of $2.6 billion during the next 10 years", said a NASA statement.
What? Is NASA going to the moon?
In an announcement Thursday, the space agency named the organizations that are now eligible to bid on delivering science and technology payloads to the lunar surface.
The Trump administration also directed NASA to seek and encourage additional private sector participation. "It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use", the president said during the signing. No money was awarded Thursday.
Deep Space Systems NASA
Bridenstine said he ordered safety reviews of SpaceX and Boeing, another NASA contractor - which were first reported by The Washington Post earlier this month - but stressed that he had wanted the reviews of their corporate culture before Musk was filmed smoking weed. Draper spokesman Dan Dent said the missions will involve deploying technologies to collect samples and study the moon. "These missions pave the way for a human return to the moon, as well as enable human exploration of Mars and beyond".
The lander is based on designs for Martian landers the company produced for NASA, including the InSight lander that touched down on Mars Nov. 26.
Ultimately, these upcoming missions will help NASA gather data in order to prepare to send a lander with a person in it to the Martian surface.
Thomas Zurbuchen is head of NASA's science mission directorate, which leads the new flight efforts. Carpooling to the Moon - perhaps with academics or another company - should reduce the cost, he said.
It also continues a trend at NASA toward public-private partnerships for exploration.
Trump's administration was clear in its directive requesting that the NASA Administrator shall, 'Lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and worldwide partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.More news: Officer accused of killing man in wrong apartment indicted for murder