NASA Selects Blue Origin to Craft Lunar Lander
In an exciting revelation for the space industry, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin was selected by NASA to construct a spacecraft for ferrying astronauts to and from the moon's surface. The contract, worth a staggering $3.4 billion, is a significant milestone for the company. Blue Origin had lost a bid similar to Elon Musk's SpaceX just two years prior.
Collaborative Effort to Reach the Moon
Blue Origin's ambitious project entails constructing a 52-foot tall Blue Moon lander in collaboration with Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, software company Draper, and robotics firm Astrobotic. Despite stiff competition from a consortium led by defense contractor Dynetics, including Northrop Grumman Corp, NASA opted for Bezos' Blue Origin.
A Second Option for the Artemis Program
This decision provides NASA with a secondary route for its Artemis program, facilitating astronaut transportation to the lunar surface. SpaceX, led by fellow billionaire Musk, had previously won a $3 billion contract in 2021 to build its Starship for this purpose.
Private and Public Sector Partnership
In line with recent trends, NASA continues to support the development of privately-owned astronaut spacecraft. Rather than bearing the complete ownership cost, NASA now helps fund these projects and pays for the mission use of the crafts.
Blue Origin’s Financial Investment
Blue Origin, founded in 2000, is reportedly investing significantly more than the awarded $3.4 billion to develop the lunar spacecraft. The company has confirmed that it will bear the cost of any overruns, demonstrating its commitment to this monumental endeavor.
Moon Landing: Return and Stay
Bezos took to Twitter to express his honor at being part of the mission to return astronauts to the moon, emphasizing that it's to establish a long-term presence this time. Blue Origin's proposal stood out for its competitive pricing, advanced lander capabilities, and the plan for two test landing missions, all to be executed at the company's expense.
Concerns and Considerations
However, NASA did express worries about potential conflicts and omissions in Blue Origin's proposed schedule and development deadlines. The Dynetics-led proposal, on the other hand, raised doubts about meeting technical requirements and was found to be significantly higher in cost.
A Long-Awaited Victory for Bezos
Friday's announcement marks a victory for Bezos, who has invested billions into Blue Origin to rival SpaceX's dominance in satellite launches and human spaceflight. After losing to SpaceX in 2021, this win is seen as a vindication of Blue Origin's potential and a step towards diversifying the lunar exploration landscape.
Future Plans: The Artemis Program and Beyond
The Artemis program is charting a future with a permanent human presence on the moon. SpaceX's Starship is slated to carry out the first two astronaut moon landings, with Blue Origin's lander following suit in 2029. With these plans in place, lunar exploration's future looks promising.