Monday, May 22, 2023
The decision gives Blue Origin a win after NASA awarded rival SpaceX a contract in 2021 to build the first lunar lander for the Artemis mission, which will return humans to the moon.
In a win for Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin has secured a contract to build a second lunar lander for NASA’s Artemis mission after his company lost out on building the first lander to SpaceX.
On Friday, NASA awarded Blue Origin the $3.4 billion contract to build a second lander for the Moon slated to be used in 2029 during the Artemis V mission.
The so-called “Blue Moon lander” is being designed to carry two astronauts for “a weeklong trip to the Moon’s South Pole region where they will conduct science and exploration activities,” the space agency said.
NASA picked Blue Origin, rather than SpaceX, citing the competitive benefits of relying on multiple technology providers. “I’ve said it before, we want more competition,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a press conference. “We want two landers. And that’s better. And it means you have reliability, you have backups. It benefits NASA, it benefits the American people.”
Relying on two lunar providers promises to also keep down costs, since both SpaceX and Blue Origin will face pressure to keep competing on the technology and securing further bids. Blue Origin will also be building the second lunar lander with the help of Lockheed Martin, Draper, Boeing, Astrobotic, and Honeybee Robotics.
“This competitive approach drives innovation, brings down costs, and invests in commercial capabilities to grow the business opportunities that can serve other customers and foster a lunar economy,” added NASA Manager Lisa Watson-Morgan.
The space agency’s decision to award the contract to Blue Origin should also heal a rift between the two parties. Back in 2021, NASA awarded the initial lunar lander project for the Artemis III mission to SpaceX, which sparked Blue Origin to sue, citing flaws in the evaluation process.
A judge later tossed out the lawsuit. But the legal battle caused NASA to delay its plan to land a human back on the Moon from 2024 to “to no earlier than 2025.”
Blue Origin’s lunar lander won’t be used for some time. But when it does become operational, the plan is for astronauts to board the second lander by first arriving on Gateway, a space station-like outpost that NASA plans to orbit around the Moon.
NASA already successfully launched Artemis I, an uncrewed mission to the Moon, last year. Meanwhile, Artemis II is slated to send a team of human astronauts to conduct a flyby of the Moon in November 2024.
Copyright © 2023 CST, Inc. All Rights Reserved