NASA awarded Blue Origin a contract to develop a lander for the lunar program

Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin has awarded NASA a contract to develop a lander for the Artemis lunar program. This was reported on the agency’s website.

The contract is valued at $3.4 billion. “Today, we are pleased to announce that Blue Origin will build a human landing system as NASA’s second supplier to deliver Artemis astronauts to the surface of the moon,” said NASA chief Bill Nelson.

The company will be required to design, develop and test a Blue Moon lander that meets NASA requirements for a repeat mission landing system. The contract also includes one uncrewed demonstration mission before the Artemis V mission with it in 2029.

“For the Artemis V mission, NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket will carry four astronauts into lunar orbit aboard the Orion spacecraft. Once Orion docks with the Gateway, the two astronauts will transfer to the Blue Origin human landing system for a week-long trip to the Moon’s South Pole region, where they will conduct science and research activities.

According to NASA, the appearance of another partner in the project will lead to increased competition and, consequently, to a reduction in costs. In April 2021, the agency awarded businessman Elon Musk’s SpaceX contract to demonstrate the initial human landing system for the Artemis III mission.

On April 19, Nelson during parliamentary hearings announced that the NASA Artemis III mission, which involves landing two astronauts on the moon, could take place at the end of 2025 or in 2026. In total, four people will take part in the mission, two of them will spend six on the surface of the moon days.

Earlier in January, Nelson announced a tightening of the US-China moon race. In his opinion, China can gain a foothold and try to dominate the moon, in its most resource-rich places. Beijing had previously announced plans to land on the moon by the end of the decade, and delays in the US program could leave China behind, Politico noted at the time. Under former US President Donald Trump, NASA moved the moon landing schedule by a year.

Nelson added that the U.S. was ahead of schedule in its plans to return to the Moon, but when asked if U.S. astronauts would arrive before China, he replied, “It’s the Lord’s will.”

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