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Foust Forward | For NASA's back to the moon, a little something to catch


"Spring Exit" appears in each edition of SpaceNews magazine. This column runs in December 3, 2018.

When NASA launched the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program earlier this year, there was a few more questions about how it sounded the less-less acronym CLPS. The consensus was soon to put an imaginary "i" in the middle, so it sounds like "clips."

Perhaps, although the "claps" must be pronounced. There was a lot of clapping at NASA Headquarters Nov. 29 NASA's nine companies were elected to participate in CLPS. Grab when representatives of companies were suspended. Clapping for a promotional video presenting the event. Clapping for NASA astronomer Stan Love, who was on a videoclipe of the Johnson Space Center, was an intersection on a floor with a heart to simulate the one-sixth gravitational force of moon. Clapping itself for a Mars-spacecraft, InSight, which lands on the planet for three days earlier. ("We are still on Mars high," said Thomas Zurbuchen, national as a science administrator.)

The result was a spectacle that was a great way to get a new commercial initiative. Students from local FIRST Robotics teams earned more time in business than those companies that have requested contracts, and more opportunities to ask NASA leadership leaders as journalists in & # 39; the room or the phone. "Personally, a happy day, but what an odd event", then a representative of one of the winning companies has indicated.

NASA CLPS children
In Nova Labs Robotics "BrainStorm Troopers" team member from Reston, Virginia asks for demand in NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) announcement Nov. 29, 2018 by NASA Headquarters in Washington. Credit: NASA / Bill Ingalls

The jubilee scandalized the fact that the CLPS prices are now a little undergoing education. While the agency said that the contracts had a total value of $ 2.6 billion over 10 years, that is a maximum value for that undeserved supply, unequaled quantity prices. For each one, only one-to-one amount of money gets to make user-friendly users, without worrying them anymore.

The companies will now face each other – together with other extra businesses in future – for jobs to fly individual users, so NASA is still in the process of identifying. The companies should also raise money and build, their landers: by and large what they offer, are concept art and mockups, with designs are not even greater than the critical design level of transport.

But although the announcement failed to abort many substances, the program still has an important role in NASA and industry. Some entrepreneurs have considered the event that the awards help to get money from investing by demonstrating that they have a really and potentially lucrative customer for their cars. The lack of such customers in today's & # 39; The Google Lunar X Prize Competition makes it hard for many businesses to fund their landing and trying to win the prize.

NASA looks at CLPS as a way to achieve low cost-savvy on a month, including the method of identifying resources that 't the future of can help human exploration. More important, however, affirms that CLPS is a risky visit, with many businesses likely to learn technical or financial failures. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine compared the class of CLPS companies to a portfolio of # capitalist of # 39; The capitalist: just need a few to make the total program to become successful.

And if it's a success, CLPS can get a long way to realizing that "sustainable" return to the moon that NASA has been migrant since signing the space of space policy 1 a year ago. Even so many other aspects of NASA's monthly plans remain uncertain, or, in the case of 'Gateway', under criticism criticism, help create a commercial means of & # 39; a month – one that could expand with time to support larger, more complex users – could be a long way to the end of last decade. stop-and-go in # set to return to the munich surface.

As CLPS realizes, it will be worth a round of applause.

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