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US lunar program will rely on corporations

Astronaut John Young salutes the US flag during the Apollo 16 moon landing in 1972. (AAP)

NASA says that nine US companies will compete to launch the next unmanned lunar probe to the moon.

America's next moon landing will be made by private companies - not NASA.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced on Thursday that nine US companies will compete in delivering experiments to the lunar surface. Bridenstine says NASA will buy the service and let private industry work out the details on getting there.

The goal is to get science and technology experiments to the surface of the moon as soon as possible. The first flight could be next year. 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing.

The announcement comes just three days after NASA landed a spacecraft on Mars. NASA wants to see how it goes at the moon before committing to commercial delivery services at Mars.

The nine companies, representing seven states, are:

Astrobiotic Technology Inc., Pittsburgh; Deep Space Systems, Littleton, Colorado; Draper, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Firefly Aerospace Inc., Cedar Park, Texas; Intuitive Machines, Houston; Lockheed Martin, Littleton, Colorado; Masten Space Systems Inc., Mojave, California; Moon Express, Cape Canaveral; and Orbit Beyond, Edison, New Jersey.

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