For the first time in a dog's age, NASA's human spaceflight program seems to be in a hurry.
Although few in the aerospace industry expect the agency to meet its 2024 goal of landing humans on the South Pole of the Moon, this deadline has nonetheless spurred the space agency to move quickly with contracts on offer for a lunar space station, spacesuits, Moon cargo delivery, and more.
At the end of September, NASA asked industry to bid for large contracts—which eventually will be worth at least several billion dollars—to build a "human landing system" that will take astronauts from lunar orbit down to the Moon's surface.
If NASA's return to the Moon survives into future presidential administrations, the company that builds a human lunar lander will earn both prestige for landing astronauts on another world, but also potentially long-term contracts that may one day include landing humans on Mars.
NASA wants to see skin in the game, which can be a risky proposition for a program that might one day be killed by the government.
Finally, there is no guarantee these landers will ever be funded.