FLORIDA: US space agency NASA on Friday announced to hire Blue Origin, which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, as the second company to develop a spacecraft enabling astronauts to travel to the moon’s surface.
It has become the second company under its Artemis moon programme after awarding Elon Musk’s SpaceX $3 billion worth of a contract in 2021 to allow astronauts to land on the moon for the second time after Apollo’s 1972 mission.
The Blue Origin contract is valued at roughly $3.4 billion, Nasa’s exploration chief Jim Free said. Meanwhile, Blue Origin’s Vice President John Couluris said that the company will contribute “well north” of that amount.
“We’re making an additional investment in the infrastructure that will pave the way to land the first humans on Mars,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in announcing the Blue Origin award.
“Our shared ambitions now are no less lofty than when President [John F.] Kennedy dared a generation of dreamers to journey to the moon,” he added.
Taking to Twitter, Bezos said that he was “honoured to be on this journey with NASA to land astronauts on the Moon — this time to stay.”
Blue Origin has planned that it would build the Blue Moon lander — which would be 52-foot (16-metre) in height — in partnership with Lockheed Martin, Boeing spacecraft software firm Draper, and robotics firm Astrobotic.
The Blue Moon landing is expected to ferry two astronauts to the surface. It is planned to take place in 2029.
“Our partnership will only add to this golden age of human spaceflight,” Nasa administrator Bill Nelson said.
Friday’s announcement helped the space company overcome a rival bif from Dynetics, a defence contractor owned by Leidos.
The companies could not get a contract in 2021, which was secured by Musk’s aerospace company as part of a moon lander procurement program.
This new offer is a second opportunity to the founder of Amazon who since establishing the company Blue Origin in 2000 poured bullion o dollars to compete for high-level government space projects with SpaceX — a dominant force in satellite launches and human spaceflight.
After losing the contract in 2021, Jeff Bezos’ company unsuccessfully fought to change Nasa’s decision to ignore its Blue Moon lander, first with a watchdog agency and then with the jury.
Legislators and Blue Origin stressed the US space agency to give the second contract for its lunar lander to encourage commercial competition and make sure that it has a backup ride for the lunar mission.
Nasa’s Artemis mission involves a multi-space craft plan involving its Space Launch System rocket launching astronauts toward the moon aboard the Lockheed-built Orion capsule. That will dock in space with a lunar lander to ferry the crew the rest of the way to the moon’s surface.