NASA is calling for startups to aid them in sending man back to the Moon -- possibly for good.

Answering a question for TechCrunch at the International Astronautical Congress, NASA Administrator Jim Berdstine spoke about how open the Artemis program is in welcoming startup contributions.

Berdstine explained that companies of any size could be part of the program and offers them access to the Lunar Gateway.

The Artemis Program is NASA's mission to send the next man to the Moon by 2024 -- along with the first woman. The program's commitment is to explore the Moon's surface even further and is a collaborative effort with commercial and international partners. The program's ultimate goal or more accurately, its future destination, is Mars.

To reland on the Moon, NASA will employ new technologies, including a powerful rocket called the Space Launch System and Orion, the spacecraft that will board the astronauts for exploring space. The gateway that Bernstine was referring to is the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway or simply, the Lunar Gateway.

The Lunar Gateway is like a mobile home in space orbiting the Moon where astronauts can sleep, eat, and do research. It's a spaceship that lets astronauts take multiple trips to the Moon's surface by allowing them to refuel, restock or repair their spacecraft. And Bernstine welcomes startups and other companies to the Lunar Gateway, even proposals of bypassing it entirely.

To be part of the Artemis mission, Bernstine stressed the need for getting science equipment delivered to the Moon's surface before their scheduled launch, and that is where companies can take part in. Bernstine also imagines something bigger.

"Maybe even — again it depends on budgets, and I'm not promising anything between now and 2024 — but maybe even an inflatable habitat on the surface of the Moon so that when our astronauts get there they have a place to go, and they can stay for longer periods of time," he said. "Is that in the realm of possibility? Absolutely."

Four companies have already agreed on a partnership to build NASA's Moon lander. Those companies are Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper where Blue Origin will be the prime contractor and will oversee program management, systems engineering, and mission safety.

"National challenges call for a national response," says Bob Smith, CEO, Blue Origin. "We are humbled and inspired to lead this deeply committed team that will land NASA astronauts on the Moon. Combining our partners' heritage with our advance work on the Blue Moon lunar lander and its BE-7 engine, our team is looking forward to working with NASA in support of the Artemis program."

You can imagine there are going to be a lot of countries to step up to the plate at a level that would say 'OK, that warrants having an astronaut on the surface of the Moon,'" NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said "You can imagine there are going to be a lot of countries to step up to the plate at a level that would say 'OK, that warrants having an astronaut on the surface of the Moon,'" NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said Photo: AFP / IVAN COURONNE