Bezos Blue Origin wins a NASA contract to build an astronaut lander on the moon

The US space agency said today, Friday, that a team led by Jeff Bezos Blue Origin won a NASA contract worth $ 3.4 billion to build a spacecraft to transport astronauts to and from the surface of the moon, which represents an achievement for NASA. The company is two years after losing out to Elon Musk’s SpaceX in another competition.

Blue Origin plans to build the 52-foot (16-meter) Blue Moon probe in partnership with Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), Boeing Co (BA.N), software company Draper, and robotics firm Astrobotic. NASA chose Blue Origin over a competitor led by Dynetics, the defense contractor owned by Leidos Inc (LDOS.N), which also included Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N).

NASA’s decision to go with Bezos and Blue Origin would give it a second option to send astronauts to the moon under its Artemis program. NASA has awarded fellow billionaire Musk SpaceX $3 billion in 2021 to build its spacecraft to land astronauts on the Moon for the first time since the last Apollo mission in 1972. The first two spacecraft missions are scheduled for later this decade. .

“I’ve said it before: We want more competition, we want two landers, and that’s better,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at an event announcing the contract at NASA Headquarters. “It means you have reliability, you have backups.”

The contract follows NASA’s trend in recent years where it helps fund the development of an astronaut’s private spacecraft, then pays to use the craft on missions rather than spending more to own the craft outright.

The company’s lunar lander president, John Colouris, told reporters at the event that Blue Origin, founded in 2000, is investing “north of the $3.4 billion figure to develop the spacecraft.” Coulouris said Blue Origin, not NASA, will pay for any cost overruns.

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“Honored to be on this journey with @NASA to land astronauts on the moon – this time to stay,” Amazon.com (AMZN.O) founder Bezos said on Twitter after the announcement.

NASA said in a contract document that it chose Blue Origin’s proposal for its low price, additional landing capabilities, and plan to carry out two test moon landings in 2024 and 2025 at the company’s expense. But NASA has expressed concern about “many conflicts and omissions” in Blue Origin’s proposed timeline and development deadlines.

The contract document said the Dynetics-led bid raised NASA’s concerns about whether it met technical requirements, and the price was “significantly higher.”

The Artemis program envisions building a long-term presence on the moon. SpaceX’s Starship probe is preparing to perform the first landing of an astronaut on the moon, followed by a similar mission in 2029 using the Blue Origin probe. Each is expected to put an astronaut on the moon.

Friday’s announcement was a long-awaited result for Bezos, who has invested billions of dollars in Blue Origin to compete for high-profile space awards with SpaceX, the dominant force in satellite launches and human spaceflight.

Blue Origin and Dynetics lost out to SpaceX in 2021, with NASA primarily blaming budget constraints for going with just one company.

After losing that competition, Blue Origin unsuccessfully sought to overturn NASA’s decision, first with a monitoring agency and then in court. And US lawmakers pressured NASA to buy a second lander.

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NASA’s multiple spacecraft plan for the initial lunar voyages of Artemis includes a Space Launch System rocket launching astronauts toward the Moon aboard a Lockheed-built Orion capsule. This capsule is designed to dock in space with SpaceX’s lunar lander, which will then ferry the crew the rest of the way.

For the Blue Origin mission, both the Orion capsule and the Blue Moon lander will carry a planned space station orbiting the Moon. The astronauts will then move between the vehicles before descending to the lunar surface.

(Reporting by Joey Roulette), Editing by Ben Clayman and Nick Zieminski

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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