Since 2018, NASA has been fine-tuning their Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program (CLPS) as a way to expedite, diversify and facilitate lunar missions, mainly as a way to discover new methods for utilizing lunar resources. The most recent addition to CLPS is Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which many saw coming. This recent news event has introduced CLPS into many of the minds of the general public for the first time, although it has actually been around since April of 2018. And, it may be one of their most exciting projects to date due to the way in which it can lead to more exciting observations in a shorter period of time.
What is CLPS?
CLPS, or Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program, is a program established by NASA in April of 2018 with the objective of facilitating more lunar exploration among many agencies associated with space exploration. Due to the high demand of more intensive investigation of the moon’s resources, NASA created this program as a way to encourage independent space travel organizations to travel to the moon to record various data regarding its resources. NASA has, in fact, been making various preparations in order to prioritize the utilization of the moon’s resources for years. This program supports these independent organizations while providing them with NASA equipment in order to ensure that the job is done as efficiently as possible, while alleviating many of the demands associated with such missions on the part of the organizations themselves. The equipment can include various technological pieces such as rovers and data-recording instruments.
In February of 2018, NASA allowed for proposals from organizations that were interested in participating in the program. This allowed them to develop a team of organizations whose priorities and interests best aligned with those of NASA themselves.
CLPS is, in fact, a highly competitive program, as one would imagine. This is largely due to the cost that is required to supply so much equipment for each mission. The goals of CLPS, primarily, are to reduce the cost of travel and exploration in regards to the moon while motivating organizations to fulfill missions that can benefit us, mainly by making discoveries about the moon’s resources in ways that can help us on our own planet. It’s also important to point out that as of now, only organizations based in the United States may participate.
Who is Involved?
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is the most recent addition to CLPS, and perhaps the most controversial due to the development of the Starship, one of Musk’s most recent projects that, up until now, was largely ignored by NASA. Other agencies that are involved with CLPS include Draper Laboratory in Massachusetts, Masten Space Systems in California, OrbitBeyond in New Jersey and Moon Express in Florida. A small number of those selected have been given lander contracts by NASA. NASA is continuing to update their list of payloads based on demand, with many of them being funded by universities and industry providers. As of now, flight opportunities are scheduled for the middle of 2020, although that can change as we get closer to the time.
Space Travel and Discovery Just Got a Whole Lot Easier
As you can see, NASA’s CLPS is making it easier than ever before for lunar exploration and observation to take place over the next few years. Elon Musk is the latest to join this project, and we expect great things to take place as a result. If you’re excited about the latest discoveries in regard to the moon, make sure that you continue to stay up to date on the missions that will be taking place in the near future.