(WASHINGTON) Two years after awarding the first contract to SpaceX, NASA announced Friday that it has selected US space agency Blue Origin to build a second lunar lander to bring astronauts to the surface of the moon.
The lander has been selected for the Artemis 5 mission, which is scheduled to take place in 2029. It must first land on the moon without a crew to prove its safety.
Billionaire Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, said Friday on Twitter that he was “honored to be a part of this journey with NASA.”
The contract is worth $3.4 billion, but John Coulouris, Blue Origin’s vice president of lunar transportation, said at a press conference that the company would contribute “beyond” that amount to build the ship.
The Artemis project is the American return to the Moon project, with missions of increasing difficulty.
It started with the Artemis 1 mission, which sent a spacecraft around the unmanned moon last fall. The Artemis 2 mission will send four astronauts around the moon in the fall of 2024 without landing there. The lucky winners, three Americans and one Canadian, were recently revealed.
Artemis 3 will be the first mission to land astronauts on the lunar surface since 1972. It is officially scheduled for the end of 2025, a schedule widely believed to be impossible to meet.
The next two missions, Artemis 4 (in 2028) and Artemis 5 (in 2029), will both land on the Moon, but will first pass through a new space station in lunar orbit, Gateway – which does not yet exist.
In 2021, NASA selected SpaceX to build the Artemis 3 lander. The contract was worth $2.9 billion, though SpaceX also contributed to the effort in excess of this amount.
Blue Origin, contesting this first contract, filed a complaint against NASA, alleging that it chose the same company instead of two as it had suggested. But the complaint was dismissed.
In 2022, SpaceX has been selected by NASA for the lander of the Artemis 4 mission.
At the same time, the US space agency launched a tender call for other companies.
“We want more competition. We want two landers,” NASA President Bill Nelson said Friday. “That means you have more reliability and an alternative. »
Blue Origin Lander, Named Blue moon16 meters tall and weighs 45 tons when filled with its fuel – liquid hydrogen and oxygen.
Several companies are partners in the project: Boeing, Draper, Astrobotic, Honeybee Robotics and Lockheed Martin.
The latter is responsible for forming an important organ. Once in lunar orbit, the Blue Moon must be refueled before the astronauts descend and reassemble from the lunar surface.
Lockheed Martin is supposed to build a type of spacecraft that will be responsible for refueling the Blue Moon around the moon.
Blue Origin plans to use its rocket New Glento launch both its lander and this spacecraft, which has never flown before.
Prelude to Tuesday
Astronauts will take off from the capsule Orion, launched to the Moon by NASA’s new SLS Mega rocket. Both of these components were tested bare-bones during Artemis 1 and will be tested with crew during Artemis 2.
For Artemis 3, Orion will connect directly to SpaceX’s lander. Two astronauts would then land on the moon for a week (the other two would stay aboardOrion) After their trials are complete, the two adventurers will board the lander again OrionIt will bring four crew members back to Earth.
then, Orion The gateway will connect to the space station, and astronauts will pass through it before boarding the SpaceX (Artemis 4) or Blue Origin (Artemis 5) lander.
All of these missions are aimed at the moon’s south pole, where water exists in the form of ice.
SpaceX’s lander will be a modified version of its ship Starship, currently in development in Texas. It exploded in flight during the first major test in April.
The goal of the Artemis project is to learn to live on the moon, and to test all the technologies necessary for a dangerous journey: to Mars.