NASA puts out call for commercial lunar landers
* 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 (Reuters) - 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 Monday.
"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 $3.5 billion.
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. Continued...