A team led by Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin has won a coveted NASA contract to build a spacecraft that will send astronauts to and from the lunar surface, NASA’s chief announced Friday as the conclusion of a high-stakes competition.
NASA’s decision will give the agency a second trip to the moon under its Artemis program, after it awarded Elon Musk’s SpaceX $3 billion in 2021 to put astronauts on the moon for the first time since the last Apollo mission in 1972. let it land.
Those first missions using SpaceX’s Starship system are planned for later this decade.
The Blue Origin contract is worth about $3.4 billion, said Jim Free, NASA’s lead operator, and Blue Origin privately contributed “well north” of that amount, said NASA’s lunar lander chief John Couluris. Blue Origin.
“Honored to be on this journey with @NASA to land astronauts on the moon – this time to stay,” Amazon.com billionaire founder Bezos said in a tweet following the announcement.
Blue Origin plans to build its 16-meter Blue Moon lander in partnership with Lockheed Martin, Boeing, aerospace software company Draper and robotics company Astrobotic.
SpaceX’s Starship lander is poised to conduct the first two astronaut moon landings under NASA’s Artemis program, sending a pair of astronauts to the lunar surface for each mission. The Blue Moon landing, scheduled for 2029, is also expected to bring two astronauts to the surface.
“Our collaboration will only contribute to this golden age of human spaceflight,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. He added that having a second lunar lander for the agency’s Artemis mission promotes commercial competition, following a trend in recent years that reduces costs for NASA.
Friday’s announcement in Washington was a long-awaited result for Blue Origin, which had unsuccessfully competed for previous contracts. The aerospace company overcame a rival bid from Dynetics Inc, owned by defense contractor Dynetics Inc, the head of a partnership with Northrop Grumman.
Those companies lost out to SpaceX for the 2021 contract, part of an initial lunar lander buyback program. NASA said under that program it could pick up to two companies, but blamed budget constraints on them only working with SpaceX.
This new contract is a boost for Bezos, who has invested billions in the company since Blue Origin was founded in 2000 to compete for high-profile commercial and government space contracts with SpaceX, a dominant force in satellite launches and human spaceflight.
After losing in 2021, Blue Origin fought unsuccessfully to overturn NASA’s decision to override its Blue Moon lander, first with a watchdog agency and then in court.
Blue Origin and lawmakers had pressured NASA to award a second lunar lander contract to promote commercial competition and ensure the agency has a backup ride to the moon. NASA announced the program for a contract for a second lander in early 2022.
Couluris, who will lead Blue Origin’s development of the lunar lander, said Friday’s price was a hard-fought outcome.
“We’ve been working for a while and we’re still ready to go,” he said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)