The billionaire space race heats up: Jeff Bezos wins $3.4 billion contract with NASA to land astronauts on the moon in a Blue Origin spacecraft… after Elon Musk’s SpaceX was awarded a separate $3 billion contract. So who will arrive first?
- NASA’s contract for Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to land a man on the moon was announced on Friday – and is heating up the billionaire’s space race with Elon Musk
- Blue Origin VP says company has put ‘way north’ $3.4 billion to help fund the mission itself
- But Musk’s SpaceX is set to make the first trip after a $3 billion deal unveiled in 2021
Jeff Bezos’ announcement of a $3 billion contract with NASA on Friday brings him one step closer to putting a man on the moon.
But he will need a giant leap to beat his rival Elon Musk.
NASA has awarded Bezos and his private rocket company Blue Origin a $3.4 billion contract to bring astronauts back to the Moon, the US space agency’s exploration chief Jim Free said Friday.
Unfortunately for the Amazon billionaire, his space exploration rival Elon Musk is expected to make the same trip first – after NASA handed Musk’s SpaceX a similar contract in 2021.
Friday’s deal with Blue Origin heats up the space race between the two billionaires, who have spent years trading pleasantries about their respective efforts to lead humanity’s efforts in space.
Bezos announced the mission with the cheeky insinuation that he intends to build a moon base
Bezos’ lunar lander (model pictured) will be built in collaboration with Lockheed Martin, Boeing, spacecraft software company Draper and robotics company Astrobotic
“We’re going to the moon!” Bezos said in an Instagram post, alongside a model of the lunar lander offered by Blue Origin, “this time to stay.”
His message teased a permanent human station on the Moon – and suggests his mission is more ambitious than Musk’s.
Musk’s SpaceX won $3 billion in 2021 to put humans back on the moon for the first time since 1972. Bezos and Blue Origin had tried unsuccessfully to win that deal – then launched an unsuccessful lawsuit to overturn the decision .
Bezos and Blue Origin not only filed a lawsuit protesting Musk’s victory, which was rejected by the Government Accountability Office, but then sued in federal court and lost again.
Announcing Blue Origin’s contract on Friday, NASA Chief Administrator Bill Nelson was positive about the race and said the agency “wants more competition.”
‘That means you have reliability. You have backups,” he told a conference at NASA headquarters in Washington.
According to Blue Origin lunar lander manager John Couluris, the company privately contributed “well north” of the $3.4 billion contract payment.
Couluris’ official title at Blue Origin for the past three years reads “Vice President for Advanced Development Programs – Lunar Permanence” – an indication of how long his boss has harbored plans for a permanent outpost on Earth’s natural satellite.
Bezos’ company has remained vague on the details of its lunar lander proposal, aside from checking the names of its business partners: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, spacecraft software company Draper and robotics company Astrobotic.
Blue Origin’s craft on the Artemis V mission, according to a “working manifesto” presented by NASA in March, will also carry the European Space Agency’s ESPRIT refueling and communications module, a Canadian-made robotic arm and an unpressurized lunar rover.
Musk’s NASA Artemis missions, using SpaceX’s Starship system, are scheduled for the end of this decade, along with Bezos’ Blue Origin missions currently slated for launch soon after in 2029.
The Blue Origin mission, Artemis V, will deploy astronauts to the lunar surface in an effort to explore its icy south pole.
It promises to be the first Artemis mission to both use NASA’s proposed lunar gateway and land on the surface of the moon.
The mission, as detailed in the space agency’s budget proposal last March, will be responsible for delivering the European Space Agency’s ESPRIT refueling and communications module to NASA’s gateway, as well as a system of robotic arm made in Canada.
For the surface phase of their mission, according to the “working manifesto” chart presented by NASA in March, the Artemis astronauts will also carry an unpressurized lunar rover.