Two years after awarding the first contract to SpaceX, the US Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced, on Friday, that it had chosen the US space company, Blue Origin, to develop a second lander with the aim of transporting astronauts to the surface of the moon.
The probe was chosen for the “Artemis 5” mission, which is scheduled to be launched in 2029. The safety of the vehicle will first have to be proven by sending it to land on the moon without a crew.
“I am honored to be part of this journey with NASA,” billionaire Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, wrote on Twitter.
The value of the contract is $ 3.4 billion, but John Collores, vice president of lunar transportation at Blue Origin, said at a press conference that the company itself would make a contribution “much more than” this amount for the development of the vehicle.
The “Artemis” program is the American program to return to the moon, during which missions of increasing difficulty will be conducted.
The program began with the Artemis 1 mission, during which a spacecraft was sent around the moon last fall, without a human crew.
The Artemis 2 mission will send four astronauts around the moon in the fall of 2024, without landing there. The identities of the pioneers who were chosen for this mission have finally been revealed, and they are three Americans and a Canadian.
After that, Artemis 3 will be the first mission to land astronauts on the moon since 1972. It is officially scheduled for the end of 2025, but many rule out the success of the mission at this date.
After that, two successive missions, “Artemis 4” (in 2028) and “Artemis 5” (in 2029), will also land on the moon, but they will first pass through a new space station in orbit around the moon called “Getawi”, which has not yet been completed.
In 2021, NASA chose SpaceX to develop the lander for the Artemis 3 mission. The value of the contract amounted to $ 2.9 billion, although SpaceX also contributed to the effort in more than this amount.
Blue Origin, which also competed for this first contract, filed a complaint against NASA, accusing it of choosing one company, not two, as it first hinted. But the complaint was dismissed.
In 2022, NASA also chose SpaceX to develop the Artemis 4 lander.
At the same time, NASA issued a call for proposals from other companies for the remaining phases of the program.
Dubbed Blue Moon, the Blue Origin lander will be 16 meters high and weigh 45 tons when filled with fuel made from liquid hydrogen and oxygen.
Several companies are participating in the project, including Boeing, Draper, Astrorobotic, Honeybee Robotics and Lockheed Martin.
The astronauts will take off in the “Orion” capsule, which will be propelled to the moon by NASA’s new SLS huge rocket. These two elements were tested empty during the “Artemis 1” mission, and they will be tested in the presence of a human crew during the “Artemis 2” mission. .
As for “Artemis 3”, “Orion” will dock directly with the “SpaceX” lunar lander, from which two astronauts will land on the moon for about a week (two others will remain in “Orion”). Once the experiments are over, the adventurers will return via the lander to Orion, which will return the four crew members to Earth.
After that, “Orion” will be linked to the “Gateway” space station, and astronauts will pass through it before boarding the “SpaceX” (Artemis 4) or “Blue Origin” (Artemis 5) spacecraft.
All of these missions target the moon’s south pole, where there is water in the form of ice.
The “Artemis” program aims to learn to live on the moon, in order to test all the technologies needed for a more dangerous journey to Mars.