NASA’s chief has announced that a team led by Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin has won a contract worth approximately $3.4 billion to build a spacecraft that will transport astronauts to and from the moon’s surface. This decision follows a high-stakes contest and will provide NASA with a second ride to the moon under its Artemis program. Elon Musk’s SpaceX was awarded a similar contract in 2021.
Details of the Contract
Blue Origin plans to build its 52-foot tall Blue Moon lander in partnership with Lockheed Martin, Boeing, spacecraft software firm Draper, and robotics firm Astrobotic. The company will privately contribute “well north” of the contract amount. The Blue Moon landing, planned for 2029, is expected to ferry two astronauts to the surface.
Impact on NASA’s Artemis Program
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has stated that having a second moon lander for the Artemis program promotes commercial competition, which has been a trend in recent years that reduces costs for NASA. NASA’s Artemis program aims to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024.
Blue Origin’s Journey
This announcement is a boost for Bezos, who has invested billions into Blue Origin since founding it in 2000 to compete for high-profile commercial and government space contracts with SpaceX, a dominant force in satellite launches and human spaceflight. Blue Origin unsuccessfully fought to overturn NASA’s decision to ignore its Blue Moon lander in 2021. However, 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.
This long-awaited outcome for Blue Origin is a significant achievement and provides a boost for the company’s future commercial and government space contracts. The partnership with NASA will add to the golden age of human spaceflight, as stated by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.