NASA Collaborates with Blue Origin to Develop Lunar Spacecraft

NASA has partnered with Blue Origin, led by Jeff Bezos, to collaborate on the construction of a spacecraft for an upcoming moon mission. The announcement was made by NASA’s chief on Friday, following a competitive process that concluded with Blue Origin’s team securing the coveted NASA contract. This contract signifies NASA’s second opportunity, under the Artemis program, to send astronauts to and from the moon’s surface since the final Apollo mission in 1972. In 2021, NASA had previously awarded SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, a $3 billion contract to facilitate the first astronaut landing on the moon in decades, utilising their Starship system.

NASA Collaborates with Blue Origin to Develop Lunar Spacecraft

The initial missions using SpaceX’s technology are scheduled to take place later this decade. The contract with Blue Origin holds an approximate value of $3.4 billion, with Blue Origin making significant private contributions beyond that amount, according to John Couluris, head of Blue Origin’s lunar lander division. In response to the announcement, Jeff Bezos expressed his honour to be part of the mission, stating in a tweet that he is excited to land astronauts on the moon with NASA, this time with the intention of establishing a permanent presence. Blue Origin intends to collaborate with Lockheed Martin, Boeing, spacecraft software firm Draper, and robotics firm Astrobotic to construct the 52-foot tall Blue Moon lander. The partnership aims to contribute to the current era of human spaceflight. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson expressed his belief that having a second moon lander for the Artemis mission promotes healthy commercial competition, ultimately reducing costs for NASA.

NASA Collaborates with Blue Origin

The awarding of the contract to Blue Origin is a significant achievement for the company, which had previously completed unsuccessfully for similar contracts. Blue Origin triumphed over a competing bid from defence contractor Dynetics Inc., in partnership with Northrop Grumman. While the new contract is a boost for Bezos and Blue Origin, who have invested heavily in competing for prominent space contracts, it is also seen as a step towards promoting commercial competition and ensuring backup options for NASA’s lunar missions. Blue Origin had challenged NASA’s decision to exclude their Blue Moon lander from the previous contract, but their efforts were unsuccessful. However, their persistence led to the creation of a program for a second lunar lander contract, which ultimately resulted in Friday’s award. John Couluris, the leader of Blue Origin’s moon lander development, expressed the team’s readiness and excitement for the upcoming mission, highlighting their dedication and long-standing commitment to this endeavour.

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