The Moon as seen from the International Space Station on July 9, 2018.
Alexander Gerst | NASA
WASHINGTON — Jeff Bezos got his NASA ticket to the moon.
The billionaire’s space company, Blue Origin, won a major NASA contract on Friday to develop a crewed lunar lander under the agency’s Artemis program to send astronauts to space later this decade. sent to the surface of the moon.
The effort, led by Blue Origin, is actually a more than $7 billion project. The contract awarded by NASA is worth just over $3.4 billion, officials said Friday, while Blue Origin Vice President John Kouluris said the company would also contribute “far north” of the contract’s value.
“We are making additional investments in infrastructure that will pave the way for the first humans to land on Mars,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in announcing the Blue Origin award. “We have no less shared ambition now than when President Kennedy inspired a generation of dreamers to go to the moon.”
Artist’s rendering of the lunar lander.
bezos in a tweet friday He is “honored to be on the journey with @NASA to put astronauts on the Moon – this time to stay.”
A team led by Blue Origin — which includes Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Draper, Astrobotic and Honeybee Robotics — was among the top proposals from a team led by Leidos-owned Dynetics. Other proposals are expected, but likely not until NASA releases a document explaining its selection process.
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Dubbed the Sustainable Lunar Development (SLD) program, the competition is essentially a second-chance contest organized by NASA after Elon Musk’s SpaceX became the sole winner of the contract for the first crewed lander in 2021.
The first program, called the Human Landing System (HLS), awarded SpaceX a nearly $3 billion contract to develop a variant of its Starship rocket for the Artemis mission. Before the HLS award, NASA expected to select two winners, but the agency’s budget at the time and SpaceX’s more affordable bid resulted in only one winner.
Both the HLS and the SLD are part of NASA’s Artemis program to send astronauts to the moon, which the agency hopes to begin sending astronauts to the lunar surface within the next few years. Last December, NASA completed the first uncrewed Artemis mission, with its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft orbiting the moon for the first time.
a chaotic saga
Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX (L), and Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and Blue Origin.
Last year, Nelson explained the rationale behind a second bidding process to add another privately built lunar lander, saying, “Competition is critical to our success.”
“We can leverage that money by partnering with the commercial industry and competing to bring those costs down to NASA,” Nelson said During Senate testimony in 2022.
Meanwhile, SpaceX continues to develop its nearly 400-foot-tall Starship rocket. The company made its first attempt to go into space with the vehicle in April. More recently, Musk estimated that SpaceX will spend about $2 billion on Starship development this year, and expects the company to reach orbit around Earth on its next launch.
Last year, NASA awarded SpaceX an additional $1.15 billion under the HLS contract for exercising the option to purchase a second crewed demonstration landing from the company. Through 2027, the total value of SpaceX’s HLS contracts will reach $4.2 billion.
To date, NASA has paid SpaceX about $1.8 billion under HLS, according to federal records.