An industry team led by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has won a $3.4 billion NASA contract to provide a second type of landing system for crewed as well as uncrewed lunar landings.
The decision announced today settles a years-long controversy over how astronauts would get to the moon’s surface: SpaceX’s Starship system would be used for the first two crewed landings during the Artemis 3 and 4 missions, currently scheduled for as early as 2025 and 2028. Blue Origin’s Blue Moon system would be used for Artemis 5, currently set for 2029.
All those missions would target the moon’s south polar region, which is thought to be one of the moon’s most promising places for long-term settlement. Both types of landers could be available to NASA for missions beyond Artemis 5.
“We are in a golden age of human spaceflight, which is made possible by NASA’s commercial and international partnerships,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at the agency’s HQ in Washington, D.C. “Together, we are making an investment in the infrastructure that will pave the way to land the first astronauts on Mars.”
In a tweet, Bezos said he was “honored to be on this journey with NASA to land astronauts on the moon — this time to stay.”