Humans are preparing to leave Earth’s orbit for the first time since 1972 — to the moon and eventually to Mars and beyond. That’s the mandate we’ve been given by President Donald Trump and a supportive bipartisan Congress. This is an exciting time to be leading America’s space program.
Today I’m proud to share a bold response to President Trump’s December 2017 call to action, one that will usher in the next chapter of human exploration. We are calling on American companies to help design and develop human lunar landers, reusable systems for astronauts to land on the moon.
As a lifelong NASA supporter, I am thrilled to be talking once again about landing humans on the moon. But to some, saying we’re returning to the moon implies we’ll be doing the same as we did 50 years ago. I want to be clear — that is not our vision. We are going to the moon with innovative new technologies and systems to explore more locations across the surface than we ever thought possible. This time, when we go to the moon, we will stay.
In the half-century since we last set foot on the lunar surface, our country, our agency — including its budget and workforce — and the technology and industrial landscape have all experienced tremendous change.
Indeed, more than two-thirds of Americans today were not even alive to witness the six successful Apollo moon landings, myself included. Extraordinary as they were, for many the lunar expeditions are facts from history books or stories told by older relatives. 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.
In my youth, I aspired to emulate America’s best aviators, astronauts like Alan Sheppard, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. My aspirations led me to become a pilot in the U.S. Navy. Now, as NASA’s administrator, I have the opportunity to support a new generation of America’s best pilots, operators and space explorers as we venture deeper into the universe than ever before. I am humbled to lead this journey. I’m excited about what it means for our future, and I believe it is essential to the security of our nation.
To do that we need a sustainable, human presence beyond Earth’s orbit. That starts with the Gateway — a lunar orbiting outpost designed to ensure the safe transit of astronauts to the lunar surface and back home again.
The Gateway will be the home base for the first reusable human lunar lander system. It’s a sustainable approach that creates more commercial opportunities, which is necessary for long-term human space exploration. Crews will use our powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft to travel to the Gateway and return safely home.
We want to get started as quickly as possible, so we are inviting private industry and other potential partners to meet with us next week at NASA Headquarters to discuss human lunar landers.
We have already committed to working with nine American companies to send new science instruments and technology demonstrations to the surface on commercial cargo moon deliveries. Following these early Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) missions will be a larger, more reliable and reusable lander system built for astronauts. We plan to award our first CLPS delivery task order early this year and target the first commercial lunar surface landing by the end of 2020.
President Trump has charged us with a bolder exploration mission — not to leave footsteps and plant flags but to learn how to live away from Earth. We are responding to that call while also continuing to look for scientific discoveries in the solar system and developing SLS, Orion and the Gateway. Working with our commercial and international partners, we will establish a foundation for ongoing human exploration of our nearest celestial neighbor.
Following a buildup of capabilities, our goal is to land astronauts on the moon within the next decade. 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.
We’re actively seeking ideas from the best and brightest from American industry. I may have missed the first human landing on the moon, but I’m working to ensure that I see the next one, along with the rest of the world.