Musk and Bezos space firms win contracts to develop NASA moon lander

James Marshall
May 3, 2020

For the Trump Administration to reach its target of having astronauts back on the moon by 2024, NASA will need a funding boost of $3 billion-to $25 billion total-in 2022, with additional bumps that bring it up to $26 billion and $27 billion in 2023 and 2024, respectively.

On Thursday, the space agency announced that three USA partners will coordinate to deliver human landing system concepts for the lunar mission known as the Artemis program.

The government space agency announced on Thursday it had selected Jeff Bezos' company Blue Origin, Elon Musk's SpaceX and Dynetics to build lunar landing systems to carry NASA astronauts for Artemis moon missions.

Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, is developing the Integrated Lander Vehicle (ILV) - a three-stage lander to be launched on its own New Glenn Rocket System and ULA Vulcan launch system. SpaceX will use its Starship system featuring an integrated landing module, while Dynetics' Human Landing System is created to launch on the ULA Vulcan launch system. In addition to sending men (and women!) to the Moon for science, NASA hopes the tech developed for Artemis will let humans (and robots!) travel deeper into space than ever before. The mission will represent the first time humans will return to the moon since 1972, but with several key differences, including the use of 21st-century technologies and access to more parts of the Moon.

By learning how to live and work on another world - the moon - NASA will be better equipped to eventually send astronauts to Mars, Bridenstine said.

Boeing Co proposed a lander concept past year but was not selected.

The contract of the three companies is collectively worth $967 million. Once in lunar orbit, astronauts would transfer to an awaiting Moon lander. The Jeff Bezos -founded space company chose to deliver a bid that included a space industry "dream team" of subcontractors, including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper, and its Artemis Human Landing System will use the expertise of all three.

Orion has one test flight under its belt, an uncrewed mission to Earth orbit that launched in December 2014 atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket.

There was no love for Boeing, however, which has challenges of its own in getting NASA's monster Space Launch System rocket to the launchpad.

"Going to the moon is why we got into this business and we couldn't be more excited", Blue Origin Chief Executive Officer Bob Smith said on the NASA call.

The Moon could be used as a potential testing ground for capabilities that would help humans perform a landing on Mars.

NASA wants the new Artemis moon-landing program to be sustainable, unlike Apollo, with multiple missions and multiple locations on the lunar surface. "We have a budget request that reflects that budget priority and I have not heard anybody suggest that, because of the coronavirus pandemic, we're going to have to cut NASA".

"We are following through on the president's space policy directive", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, calling the selection "historic".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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