The battle between the billionaire CEO’s continue
Currently, there is a cut-throat competition happening between Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Dynetics, and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to secure the NASA Lunar Lander contract. Bezos announced on December 5 that with this mission, he will be sending the first woman to the moon in 2024. He also shared a video of an engine test for his BE-7 engine at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and declared that the engine had a successful test firing time of 1,245 seconds. This is their first privately built lander.
The $579 million contract
Bezos and his company had earlier assisted in assembling the Blue Moon lander in 2019 along with Lockheed Martin Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp, and Draper. In April, NASA awarded the Blue Origin $579 million and gave SpaceX $135 million for improving the lunar lander and the Starship system. They gave the Leidos-owned Dynetics $253 million as well. NASA will be picking two of the three companies for the space mission by March 2021.
If Blue Origin gets approved by NASA, they will be sending the first woman under NASA’s Artemis program. Till now, twelve men have walked on the moon, but no women. Jim Bridenstine, a NASA administrator was quoted saying last year. He said that NASA will be changing that with this mission.
NASA had also given a total of $25,001 contracts to at least four companies to retrieve lunar regolith or moon soil. The soil will be studied during the Artemis program and crewed missions towards the moon will start early 2024.
However, Congress has been alotting minimal funds to NASA, and there are uncertainties for space exploration due to the incoming Biden administration as well. This could delay NASA’s plans to advance on this mission as well as other lunar lander contracts.
(Cover: GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)