Blue Origin gets in on lunar lander studies

Lunar landing system
An artist’s conception shows a landing system in lunar orbit. (NASA Illustration)

It’s almost as if Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos knew what was coming: His Blue Origin space venture is among 11 companies selected by NASA to conduct studies and produce prototypes of spacecraft that could carry astronauts down to the moon’s south polar region and back up by 2024.

Only a week earlier, Bezos unveiled a full-scale mockup of Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lunar lander, which is designed to deliver payload or people to the lunar surface, as part of his vision to get millions of people living and working in space. At the time, he noted NASA’s accelerated plan to put humans on the moon within five years.

“I love this,” Bezos said. “It’s the right thing to do. For those of you doing the arithmetic at home, that’s 2024. We can help meet that timeline, but only because we started three years ago.”

Now the world’s richest person will be able to use some of NASA’s money to help make it so. In today’s announcement of the selection, NASA said $45.5 million would be awarded to the 11 companies under the terms of NextSTEP E contracts.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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