The U.S. space agency NASA announced Friday it has awarded the Jeff Bezos-owned aerospace company Blue Origin a contract to build a second lunar lander for the Artemis V moon mission, aiming to land a crew on the moon by 2029.
At a Washington news conference, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said under the $3.4 billion contract, Blue Origin will design, develop, test and verify its Blue Moon lander to meet NASA's human landing system requirements for recurring astronaut expeditions to the lunar surface, including docking with Gateway, a space station where crews will transfer in lunar orbit.
Two years ago, Blue Origin made a bid on the contract NASA awarded to the Elon Musk-owned company SpaceX to build NASA's initial human landing system to be used in the agency's Artemis III and Artemis IV missions. In a release, the agency said it also directed SpaceX to evolve its design to meet the requirements for sustainable exploration on the moon.
Under its contract, Blue Origin will build a lander that meets the same sustainable requirements, including capabilities for a larger crew, longer missions and the delivery of more mass to the moon. NASA officials said the program is an important step toward their goal to establish "a regular cadence" of missions to the moon.
And, NASA said, that competitive approach, using multiple providers, drives innovation, brings down costs and invests in commercial capabilities that will foster "a lunar economy."
Nelson said Friday, "We are in a golden age of human spaceflight, which is made possible by NASA's commercial and international partnerships. Together, we are making an investment in the infrastructure that will pave the way to land the first astronauts on Mars."
The agency said the Artemis V project is the next step between extended lunar exploration capabilities and establishing a base on the moon to support recurring complex missions that would lead, eventually, to moon-to-Mars exploration.
Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.