The government space agency announced on Thursday it had selected Jeff Bezos' company Blue Origin, Elon Musk's SpaceX and Dynetics to build lunar landing systems to carry NASA astronauts for Artemis moon missions.
“With these contract awards, America is moving forward with the final step needed to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, including the incredible moment when we will see the first woman set foot on the lunar surface,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement. “This is the first time since the Apollo era that NASA has direct funding for a human landing system, and now we have companies on contract to do the work for the Artemis program.”
Blue Origin, co-founded by Bezos of Amazon fame, will develop the Integrated Lander Vehicle. The ILV is a three-stage lander and will be launched on the Kent, Wa.-based company's New Glenn Rocket System and United Launch Alliance's Vulcan launch system.
Huntsville, Al.-based Dynetics will develop the Dynetics Human Landing System (DHLS), described as "a single structure providing the ascent and descent capabilities." It too will launch on ULA's launch system.
SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, Calif., next to Tesla's design center, is currently developing the Starship, which NASA described as "a fully integrated lander that will use the SpaceX Super Heavy rocket."
“We are on our way,” Douglas Loverro, NASA’s associate administrator for Human Explorations and Operations Mission Directorate in Washington, added, noting the importance of the announcement. “With these awards we begin an exciting partnership with the best of industry to accomplish the nation’s goals. We have much work ahead, especially over these next critical 10 months. I have high confidence that working with these teammates, we will succeed.”
The contracts total $967 million to be split among the three companies, however, NASA did not disclose the exact amount each company would get.
A NASA spokesperson told Fox News that Blue Origin would receive $579 million, $253 million would go to Dynetics and $135 million would be given to SpaceX.
When asked about timing as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic, the spokesperson added that "much of the work that NASA and our contractors will perform to refine the proposed lander concepts will be done remotely."
In addition to returning to the moon, the Artemis program, is also designed to establish a sustainable human presence on Earth’s natural satellite. Eventually, NASA has long-term plans for manned missions to Mars.
The timing of Artemis could be delayed due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, however. In March, Bridenstine told Fox News the space agency will "continue to assess the potential impact on our [future] missions as the situation unfolds."