NASA awards contract for Blue Origin SLD crew lunar lander

The moon seen from the International Space Station on July 9, 2018.

Alexander Gerst | Nasa

WASHINGTON — Jeff Bezos has his ticket to the moon from NASA.

The billionaire space company, Blue Origin, won a key contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Friday to develop a crewed lunar lander to deliver astronauts to the surface of the moon later this decade as part of the Artemis program of the agency.

The Blue Origin-led effort is actually a $7 billion+ project. NASA’s contract award is worth just over $3.4 billion, officials said Friday, while Blue Origin vice president John Couluris said the company would also contribute “well north of the value of the contract.

“We are making an additional investment in infrastructure that will pave the way for the first humans to land on Mars,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in announcing the Blue Origin award. “Our common ambitions are no lower than when President [John F.] Kennedy challenged a generation of dreamers to travel to the moon.”

Artist’s rendering of the lunar lander.

blue origin

Bezos said in a tweet friday he is “honored to be on this journey with @NASA to land astronauts on the Moon – this time to stay.”

The Blue Origin-led team – which includes Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Draper, Astrobotic and Honeybee Robotics – dominated the proposal from a team led by Leidos-owned Dynetics. More proposals were expected but likely won’t be revealed until NASA releases documents explaining its selection process.

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Known as the Sustaining Lunar Development, or SLD, program, the competition was essentially a second-chance competition held by NASA after Elon Musk’s SpaceX was the sole winner of the first crew lander contract in 2021. .

That first program, called the Human Landing System, or HLS, gave SpaceX a nearly $3 billion contract to develop a variant of its Starship rocket for Artemis missions. Prior to the HLS award, NASA had to pick two winners, but the agency’s budget at the time and SpaceX’s more affordable bid meant there was only one winner.

Both HLS and SLD are part of NASA’s Artemis program to land astronauts on the moon, with the agency hoping to begin flying crew on the lunar surface within the next few years. In December, NASA completed the first Artemis mission, which had no one on board, flying its Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket and Orion spacecraft around the moon for the first time.

A messy saga

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, left, and Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and Blue Origin.

Getty Images

Competition with Starship


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