NASA chooses Blue Origin to build second lunar lander

NASA announced Friday that it has chosen the American space company Blue Origin to build a second moon landing systemintended to transport astronauts to the surface of the Moon.

The lunar landing module was selected for the Artemis 5 mission, which will take place in 2029. It will first have to prove its safety by landing on the moon without a crew.

It is an honor to be part of this journey with NASA to take astronauts to the Moon,” said billionaire Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin and the online commerce giant Amazon, on his Twitter account on Friday.

The contract is worth $3.4 billion, but John Couluris, Blue Origin’s vice president of lunar transportation, told a news conference the company would contribute “well beyond” that amount to develop the spacecraft.

Artemis is the US space agency’s return to the Moon program. It consists of several missions of increasing difficulty.

In 2021, NASA chose SpaceX to build the Artemis 3 lunar lander, which will be the first mission to bring astronauts to the lunar surface since 1972. The contract was worth $2.9 billion, though SpaceX contributes above that. amount.

Blue Origin, which was also competing for this first contract, had filed a lawsuit against NASA, accusing it of having chosen only one company for this mission and not two as it had suggested, a commonly used practice to have a plan B in case of failure. But the lawsuit was dismissed.

In 2022, SpaceX was also chosen by NASA to be in charge of the lunar landing module of the Artemis 4 mission.

At the same time, the US agency launched a tender from other companies for the rest of the program.

We want more competition. We want two lunar landers,” NASA chief Bill Nelson said Friday. “This gives you more reliability and a backup alternative,” he said.

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Blue Origin’s lander, named Blue Moon, is being developed with several partner companies: Lockheed Martin, Draper, Boeing, Astrobotic and Honeybee Robotics.

With information from AFP


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