A team led by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin won a coveted $3.4 billion NASA contract to build a spacecraft to fly astronauts to and from the moon’s surface, the US space agency said on Friday, a breakthrough for the company two years after it lost out to Elon Musk’s SpaceX in another competition.
Blue Origin plans to build its 52-foot (16-meter) tall Blue Moon lander in partnership with Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, software firm Draper and robotics firm Astrobotic. NASA picked Blue Origin over a rival bid led by Leidos Inc-owned defense contractor Dynetics that also included Northrop Grumman Corp.
NASA’s decision to go with Bezos and Blue Origin will give it a second option for sending astronauts to the moon under its Artemis program. NASA awarded fellow billionaire Musk’s SpaceX $3 billion in 2021 to build its Starship spacecraft to land astronauts on the lunar surface for the first time since the final Apollo mission in 1972. The first two Starship missions are slated for later this decade.
“I’ve said it before: we want more competition, we want two landers, and that’s better,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at an event announcing the contract at NASA’s headquarters. “It means that you have reliability, you have backups.”