The relatively small and cheap payloads delivered via the CLPS program would be followed by more traditional medium- and large-class missions, Bridenstine said, including an eventual crewed mission to the Moon.
Notably absent from the list are SpaceX and Boeing, though NASA recently ordered a safety review of the two companies, both of which are working to launch crewed missions.
In a blog and a subsequent news conference, NASA announced that it would be allowing nine different companies to bid on "NASA delivery services to the lunar surface". But it is also expected to serve as a launching point for missions to other parts of the solar system, including the planet Mars.
Jim Breidenstein drew attention to the fact that the station Gateway must be global. As NASA prepares to embark for the moon once more, it has selected a team led by Draper to once again support its mission needs.
Our aim now is to get small science and technology experiments to reach the surface of the moon as soon as possible.
The providers will compete on cost and innovation so NASA can accomplish more than ever, he said. In a news release, NASA said that "w$3 orking with us companies is the next step to achieving long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and Mars".
The companies were awarded 10-year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts with a maximum value of $2.6 billion, with the first lunar payloads flying as early as 2019, NASA said.
Lockheed Martin is planning for a massive lander that could ferry four astronauts from the Lunar Gateway to the moon, while Deep Space Systems is an aerospace engineering company developing the Mars Phoenix lander.
He added that he was the one who called for the safety review, announced November 20, of the two companies tasked with building the spacecraft that will enable Americans once again to send people to space - a capacity the United States lost in 2011 with the retirement of the space shuttle program.
Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing.
Astrobotic's Peregrine Lunar Lander is created to deliver up to a 35-kilogram payload to the lunar surface. NASA wants to return to the moon to make scientific discoveries, find resources and establish an off-Earth presence for humans.
Bridenstine said while NASA wants the companies to succeed, the space agency is certain some of the efforts will fail.
This illustration made available by NASA in 2018 shows the InSight lander drilling into Mars.