Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin led a team that won a $3.4 billion NASA contract that would let it design a spacecraft that would transport men to and from the moon’s surface, said US space agency NASA on Friday. This achievement is even more important for Jeff Bezos as he had lost a chance to defeat Elon Musk’s SpaceX in a competition two years ago.
The Blue Moon spacecraft would be a project that will rope in software company Draper, robotics company Astrobotic, Boeing Co, and Lockheed Martin Corp. NASA’s decision to choose Blue origin, that would build its 52-foot (16-meter) tall spacecraft, came after it rejected a proposal by another competitor, defense contractor Dynetics, owned by Leidos Inc, that also featured Northrop Grumman Corp.
After the news, billionaire founder of Amazon.com Jeff Bezos posted on Twitter, “Honoured to be on this journey with @NASA to land astronauts on the Moon – this time to stay.”
Why NASA chose Blue Origin
NASA has secured for it another option to run its Artemis programme under which it would send astronauts to the moon by choosing Bezos and Blue Origin. In 2021, NASA granted SpaceX, owned by fellow billionaire Musk, $3 billion to construct its Starship spacecraft, which will enable astronauts to touch down on the moon for the first time since the final Apollo mission in 1972. Starship’s initial two missions are set to take off later in this decade.
According to a contract document, NASA chose Blue Origin’s bid over others because of its lower cost, additional lander capabilities, and commitment to carry out two test landing missions on the moon at the company’s expense in 2024 and 2025. However, NASA voiced alarm over “many inconsistencies and omissions” in Blue Origin’s estimated development timeline.
The Artemis programme plans to establish a permanent base on the moon. The first two astronaut moon landings will be carried out by SpaceX’s Starship lander, and another comparable mission will be carried out by Blue Origin’s lander in 2029. Each is anticipated to land two people on the moon.
At a ceremony announcing the deal at NASA’s headquarters, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, “I’ve said it before: we want more competition, we want two landers, and that’s better. It means that you have reliability, you have backups.”
The agreement is in line with a pattern by NASA developed in recent years that funds building of private manned spacecraft and then financially help them to use in its missions instead of owning a spacecraft.
According to the company’s lunar lander chief John Couluris, Blue Origin, which was created in 2000, is spending “well north” of the $3.4 billion amount to develop the mission. Blue Origin, not NASA, would cover any cost overruns, according to Couluris.