NASA awarded billionaire space company Elon Musk, SpaceX, a $ 2.9 billion contract to build a spacecraft to carry astronauts to the moon as early as 2024, the agency said Friday, which chose it on Blue Origin and defense contractor Jeff Bezos, Dynetics Inc.
Bezos and Musk, the world’s first and third richest people, according to Forbes, competed to lead humanity’s return to the moon for the first time since 1972.
Musk’s SpaceX made a single offer while Blue Origin, founder of Amazon.com, partnered with Lockheed Martin Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp. and Draper. Dynetics is a unit of Leidos Holdings Inc.
“NASA standards !!” Musk wrote on Twitter after the announcement.
The US space agency awarded the contract for the first commercial human lander, which is part of its Artemis program. NASA said the lander will bring two American astronauts to the lunar surface.
“We should get to the next landing as soon as possible,” Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s acting administrator, said during the video conference announcement.
“If they reach their milestones, we will have a shot at 2024,” Jurczyk added.
NASA said the SpaceX spacecraft includes a spacious cockpit and two aerial locks for astronauts to walk on the moon and that its architecture is destined to evolve into a fully reusable launch and landing system designed to travel to the moon. Mars and other destinations in space.
SpaceX also responded on Twitter, writing, “We are humiliated for helping @NASAArtemis usher in a new era of human space exploration.”
Unlike the Apollo landings from 1969 to 1972, the only human visit to the surface of the Moon, NASA is preparing for a long-term lunar presence that it envisions as a springboard to an even more ambitious plan. to send astronauts to Mars. NASA relies heavily on private companies based on shared visions for space exploration.
SpaceX will have to make a test flight of the landing to the moon before humans make the trip, NASA official Lisa Watson-Morgan told reporters.
NASA had been expected to win the lunar landing contest at two companies in late April, but instead chose only SpaceX, a move that deepens its cooperation. On Thursday, NASA said it would send its crew to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX rocket on April 22.
The agency aims to create a regular service to the Moon and said it will have independent competition for this contract.
“We need to be able to provide recurring lunar services,” said Mark Kirasich, deputy chief administrator of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems division.
The announcement added to an extraordinary race for Musk, which has become electric car maker Tesla Inc. (TSLA.O) in the world’s most valuable automaker, with a market capitalization of $ 702 billion.
Musk has become a one-person technology conglomerate, setting up or controlling companies pursuing spaceflight, electric cars, neural implants and boredom of underground tunnels.
One factor in choosing SpaceX was “what is the best value for the government,” said Kathy Lueders, associate director of NASA’s Exploration and Human Operations Mission Directorate.
NASA said in a statement that SpaceX’s HLS spacecraft, designed to land on the moon, “relies on the company’s proven Raptor engines and the flight heritage of Falcon and Dragon vehicles.”
NASA’s decision was a setback for Bezos, a lifelong space enthusiast who is now more focused on his space company after announcing in February that he would step down as CEO of Amazon.
Bezos and other executives viewed the contract as critical to Blue Origin consolidating itself as a desired partner for NASA and also putting the company on the path to profit.
Musk has outlined an ambitious agenda for SpaceX and its reusable rockets, including the landing of humans on Mars. But in the short term, SpaceX’s main business has been the launch of satellites for Musk’s Starlink company and other satellites and space cargo. SpaceX announced Wednesday that it had raised about $ 1.16 billion in equity financing.
An unmanned SpaceX Starship rocket prototype was unable to land safely on March 30 after a test launch from Boca Chica, Texas. The Star was one of a series of prototypes for the heavy-lifting rocket that SpaceX is developing to transport humans and 100 tons of cargo on future missions to the Moon and Mars. A first orbital flight of the spacecraft is scheduled for later this year.
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