* NASA offers its help for business ventures on the moon
* Agency would allow free use of expertise, equipment
* NASA wants to stimulate commercialization
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. Jan 27 Under a new program
called Lunar Catalyst, U.S. space agency NASA will provide free
technical expertise, equipment, facilities and software to help
selected companies develop lunar landers, officials said on
"The intent of this initiative is to stimulate and help
commercialization," Jason Crusan, who oversees NASA's advanced
exploration programs, said during a conference call with
prospective bidders on Monday.
Development of commercial lunar landers would join a growing
list of space transportation services that have attracted
interest from U.S. companies, including Boeing Co and
Alliant Techsystems Inc.
NASA already has turned over cargo deliveries to the
International Space Station to privately owned Space Exploration
Technologies, or SpaceX, and Orbital Sciences Corp. The
companies hold NASA flight services contracts worth a combined
NASA wants a balanced approach in which its contributions
will help accelerate the development of industry projects,
Crusan said during a follow-on conference call with reporters.
"If a team came in and wanted everything from NASA and
(wanted) us to build the landing service for them, that's not
really much of a partnership."
NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
also is looking to buy rides commercially for its astronauts. At
least three firms, SpaceX, Boeing and privately owned Sierra
Nevada Corp, are in the running for NASA funding to help get
their spaceships ready for test flights before the end of 2017.
Companies interested in Lunar Catalyst have until March 17
to submit business plans and proposals to NASA, which could
decide to purchase hardware or services at a future date, Crusan
The agency, for example, is developing a mission to mine
water on the moon and intends to partner with Canada and other
countries to develop a rover and a lander. If those plans fall
through, however, NASA could look to buy the equipment from, or
partner with, U.S. companies, Crusan said.
NASA already has contracts to buy lunar science and
technical data from several teams competing in the $30 million
Google X Prize competition to land and operate a privately owned
vehicle on the moon before the end of 2015.