In a "bold response" to a mandate from US President Donald Trump to leave Earth's orbit for the first time since 1972, the space agency's administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote a post calling on private American companies and industry leaders to "help design and develop human lunar landers". As per Bridenstine, NASA has already invited private partners to the space agency's headquarters to discuss lunar landers. "But to some, saying we're returning to the moon implies we'll be doing the same as we did 50 years ago".
He said NASA was planning to send astronauts "to the moon and eventually to Mars and beyond" and that it was "an exciting time to be leading America's space programme".
The President's Space Policy Directive-1 galvanizes NASA's return to the Moon and builds on progress on the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, efforts with commercial and global partners, and knowledge gained from current robotic presence at the Moon and Mars. The construction of the first Russian lunar base is set to begin in 2034 and continue in 2035.
Ultimately, Bridenstine said, the goal is to get astronauts back on the Moon within the next decade.
Through multi-phased lunar exploration partnerships, NASA is asking American companies to study the best approach to landing astronauts on the Moon and start the development as quickly as possible with current and future anticipated technologies.
Even before humans set foot back on the dusty lunar surface, Nasa has plenty of non-humanoid moon plans in the pipeline.
"But unlike Apollo, this time we're going to the moon to stay, and from there we'll take the next giant leap in deep space exploration".
"Billions of people around the world will watch history being made as astronauts explore more of the surface for longer periods of time than ever before, and help us prepare for missions to Mars and other destinations".