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And the contract for NASA’s second Artemis Lunar Lander goes to… Blue Origin!

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Blue Origin has been awarded a contract worth $3.4 billion to create a lunar lander called Blue Moon. This lander will be designed, developed, tested, and verified to meet NASA’s requirements for human landing systems and will be used for recurring astronaut expeditions to the moon’s surface. It will be able to dock with Gateway, a space station in lunar orbit where crew transfer can take place. As part of the contract, Blue Origin will conduct an uncrewed demonstration mission to the lunar surface before a crewed demo on the Artemis V mission in 2029.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, said,

“Today we are excited to announce Blue Origin will build a human landing system as NASA’s second provider to deliver Artemis astronauts to the lunar surface. 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.”

NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket will transport four astronauts to lunar orbit for the Artemis V mission. The Orion spacecraft will be used for the launch. Following Orion’s docking with Gateway, two of the astronauts will transfer to Blue Origin’s human landing system and embark on a weeklong expedition to the Moon’s South Pole region. Their activities will include conducting scientific research and exploring the area.

The Artemis V mission is a significant milestone for NASA as it showcases the agency’s ability to explore the Moon while establishing the necessary infrastructure to support future missions in lunar orbit and on the surface. This mission is a crucial part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

The inclusion of another partner for the human landing system in NASA’s Artemis program will offer numerous benefits. It will foster healthy competition, bring down costs for taxpayers, establish a consistent schedule of lunar landings, promote investment in the lunar economy, and aid NASA in accomplishing its objectives on the Moon and in its vicinity, all in preparation for future manned missions to Mars.

NASA had previously engaged SpaceX to showcase an initial human landing system for the Artemis III mission. As per the agreement, NASA had also requested SpaceX to enhance its design to comply with the agency’s specifications for sustainable exploration and to showcase the lander on Artemis IV.

Following the contract with Blue Origin to exhibit a lander that conforms to the same sustainable lander requirements, including the ability to accommodate larger crews, longer mission durations, and transporting more mass to the Moon, several contenders will now be accessible to compete for upcoming opportunities to fulfill NASA’s lunar surface access needs for Artemis missions.

Lisa Watson-Morgan, manager, Human Landing System Program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, explained the importance of dual lunar lander designs,

“Having two distinct lunar lander designs, with different approaches to how they meet NASA’s mission needs, provides more robustness and ensures a regular cadence of Moon landings. This competitive approach drives innovation, brings down costs, and invests in commercial capabilities to grow the business opportunities that can serve other customers and foster a lunar economy.”

NASA plans to use Artemis to send astronauts on a mission to explore the Moon for scientific discovery, economic benefits, and to establish a base for future crewed missions to Mars. This incredible mission will include the first woman and person of color to ever set foot on the Moon. The SLS rocket, Orion, Gateway, advanced spacesuits, and human landing systems are all essential components that make up NASA’s foundation for deep space exploration.

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