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NASA, private partners will go to the moon and beyond

December 2, 2018

Texas’ own NASA Johnson Space Center has served as the iconic beginning to some of the greatest moments in American history, from landing men on the moon to assembling the International Space Station, a triumph of engineering and international cooperation.

But even with those far-from-humble beginnings, we are leveraging our past successes to create even more daring missions as we return to the moon in a way that is sustained and sustainable. The country is renewing our focus on expanding humanity’s presence beyond Earth.

NASA will organize government, commercial and international efforts to develop a permanent presence off Earth that generates new markets and opportunities, both scientific and economic.

Johnson Space Center, or JSC, will play a crucial role in leading human space exploration to the moon and beyond. The moon holds enormous potential for testing technologies, doing unprecedented science, providing economic benefits, and giving the next generation the inspiration to join the journey. JSC will bring its expertise in program management, partnerships, systems integration, operations, spacecraft design, and human health and performance to bear on this daring vision.

Key to NASA’s exploration goals are partnerships and sustainable infrastructure.

Today, U.S. commercial companies resupply the International Space Station. Soon, they will launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.

Now we are working to apply the successes we achieved under those programs to exploring the lunar surface. In that vein, NASA developed a strategy — named Commercial Lunar Payload Services — to buy lunar delivery services from commercial companies. We recently announced the award of this contract, which identifies a total of nine companies that are eligible to provide delivery services for instruments and technology demonstrations to the surface of the moon.

Two Texas companies — Firefly Aerospace of Cedar Park (north of Austin) and Intuitive Machines of Houston — are in this catalog of companies that will be available to provide lunar services over the next decade.

NASA’s Orion Program, based at JSC, and Space Launch System, or SLS, are the nation’s backbone for deep space human exploration.

Orion will launch on SLS, carrying as many as four astronauts farther into space than ever before, for as long as 21 days. These systems represent a new era in space exploration and will be instrumental in constructing the “Gateway.”

The Gateway will forge U.S. leadership and presence over the region between the moon and Earth as a versatile outpost — a ship, a port and a transit hub. Gradually, it will evolve into a way station for the development of refueling depots, servicing platforms, and a facility for processing samples from the moon and other bodies in support of science and commerce.

This month we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the International Space Station, which has been a model of international cooperation. Similarly, the Gateway will be constructed with the help of international partners — several already having expressed interest in participating.

JSC stands ready to expand frontiers, unite with our partners on common goals and explore space for the benefit of humanity.

Together, ISS, Orion, SLS and the Gateway represent the core of NASA’s sustainable infrastructure for exploration. JSC provides critical and unique human spacecraft, flight operations, and human health and performance expertise that will enable these important missions.

Giant leaps start at Johnson Space Center. Today, we push forward to the moon. Tomorrow, we leap to greater heights and new destinations. There is history to be made. In Mission Control, we eagerly anticipate the first transmissions from unexplored worlds.

Mark Geyer is NASA Johnson Space Center’s 12th director. He leads a workforce of approximately 10,000 civil servant and contractor employees at one of NASA’s largest installations in Houston and the White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, N.M.

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