Blue Origin, the space company led by Jeff Bezos, has secured a significant contract from NASA worth $3.4 billion to develop a spacecraft for transporting astronauts to and from the moon’s surface. The contract represents a major breakthrough for Blue Origin, coming two years after it lost out to Elon Musk’s SpaceX in a previous competition.
Under the terms of the contract, Blue Origin will collaborate with industry partners Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Draper, and Astrobotic to build the Blue Moon lander, a 52-foot tall spacecraft. NASA’s decision to select Blue Origin provides the agency with an additional option for its Artemis program, which aims to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon. SpaceX was awarded a $3 billion contract in 2021 to develop its Starship spacecraft for lunar landings.
The selection of Blue Origin as a contractor aligns with NASA’s objective of fostering competition and ensuring redundancy in its lunar missions. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson expressed his enthusiasm for having multiple options, stating that it enhances reliability and provides backup capabilities.
Blue Origin has committed to investing a significant amount exceeding the $3.4 billion contract value in developing the spacecraft. The company’s lunar lander chief, John Couluris, clarified that Blue Origin will bear any additional costs beyond the contract’s scope, alleviating concerns about potential cost overruns for NASA.
Following the announcement, Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon.com, expressed his honor and excitement on Twitter, stating, “Honored to be on this journey with @NASA to land astronauts on the Moon – this time to stay.”
The Artemis program envisions a multi-spacecraft approach for lunar missions. NASA’s Space Launch System rocket will launch astronauts toward the moon in the Lockheed-built Orion capsule, which will then dock with SpaceX’s Starship lunar lander to complete the journey. Blue Origin’s mission will involve the Orion capsule and the Blue Moon lander docking with a planned lunar space station, enabling astronauts to transfer between vehicles before descending to the moon’s surface.
Awarding the contract to Blue Origin concludes a closely watched competition between prominent space companies. Blue Origin has invested significant resources to compete with SpaceX for high-profile space contracts. Although Blue Origin lost the previous competition, it challenged NASA’s decision through legal avenues without success. The company and U.S. lawmakers pushed for a second lunar lander contract, ultimately resulting in the recent contract award.
NASA’s partnership with multiple commercial companies for its lunar missions reflects a strategy to share development costs and promote innovation while reducing expenses for the agency. The success of these missions will pave the way for renewed human exploration of the moon, expanding scientific knowledge and laying the foundation for future space endeavors.