NASA has picked Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to make a lunar lander for an upcoming Artemis mission to the Moon, the agency announced on Friday. As part of the $3.4 billion contract, there will be one uncrewed “demonstration mission” ahead of a human-crewed demo that’s set to take place in 2029 for the Artemis V mission, according to a press release.
Currently, the plan for the Artemis V mission is for four astronauts to first fly to the Gateway space station on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft. Then, two astronauts will go to the Moon on Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lander for “about a weeklong trip to the Moon’s South Pole region,” NASA said.
“Adding another human landing system partner to NASA’s Artemis program will increase competition, reduce costs to taxpayers, support a regular cadence of lunar landings, further invest in the lunar economy, and help NASA achieve its goals on and around the Moon in preparation for future astronaut missions to Mars,” NASA said.
Blue Origin is the second company to land a contract with NASA for a lunar lander for Artemis. SpaceX was the first, winning the sole contract in 2021, and Blue Origin lost a lawsuit against NASA over the decision later that year. However, NASA announced in 2022 that it would develop a second human lunar lander, inviting space companies to make proposals.
SpaceX is currently working on its Starship spacecraft for the contract. In an April test flight, Starship burst into flames.