Once again, NASA leans into the future by picking an innovative lunar lander

Enlarge / An artist’s concept of Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lunar lander. (credit: Blue Origin)

NASA on Friday announced its selection of Blue Origin to build a second Human Landing System for its Artemis Program to return to the Moon. The space company, founded by Jeff Bezos, will lead the development of a fully reusable lander that could take flight as soon as the end of this decade.

The fixed price contract is worth $3.4 billion, and NASA would like the “Blue Moon” lander to be ready for its Artemis V mission. Nominally, this landing of four astronauts will take place in 2029, but almost certainly, the schedule will slip out into the early 2030s. Blue Origin beat out another bidder, a team led by Dynetics, for the award.

Friday’s announcement represents a significant moment for NASA for multiple reasons. Importantly, it adds a second provider of human landing services. Previously, NASA awarded a contract to SpaceX for its Starship vehicle to serve as a lunar lander. That vehicle will be used for NASA’s first two lunar landing missions, Artemis III and Artemis IV. So NASA gets the competition it covets, which has been shown to spur commercial development.

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