NASA will fund a second lunar lander. This is Jeff Bezos’ chance

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The NASA has announced what will fund a second lunar lander for the Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 and establish a sustainable presence on the satellite. This expansion of the project may mean a new opportunity for proposals from Blue Origin and Dynetics, which were defeated in the original competition by SpaceX.

In this new stage of the project, the US space agency is calling on commercial companies to propose concepts for landers capable of transporting astronauts between the Gateway Orbital Platform and the surface of the Moon. NASA’s schedule calls for this new module to be ready in 2026 or 2027 to “help sustain long-term descent capabilities.”

Blue Origin warms up engines

NASA assures that it will soon open a contest for what it calls “Sustainable Lunar Development” which, unlike the one awarded to SpaceX, must be designed to transport more astronauts and cargo, in addition to supporting longer stays on the inhospitable lunar surface. Yes indeed, Elon Musk’s company will not be able to participate this time. “Competition leads to better and more reliable results,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

The draft application to participate in the contest will be ready in the coming weeks and the final version in the spring. If there are no setbacks, the contract will be awarded early next year. However, it is unknown how much money the government will allocate to a new stage of the project – let us remember that NASA generally receives less money than it asks for – although Nelson trusts the support of Congress.

When Blue Origin lost the original competition to develop the Artemis lunar lander, Jeff Bezos waged an intense campaign to get NASA to choose a second proposal. The agency responded that it preferred to have multiple landing systems, saying “only one design was selected for an initial uncrewed demonstration and the first manned landing, due to significant budget constraints“.

Illustration of an Artemis astronaut

Back then, SpaceX’s bid was $2.9 billion, Blue Origin’s $6 billion, and Dynetics’s was even higher. NASA chose SpaceX to test its lander on the Artemis I mission and the first astronaut flight to the Moon with the Artemis II mission. As for the companies not selected, he said they would be considered for future lunar landing contracts.

Jeff Bezos had protested to the Government Accountability Office, alleging that the award was tainted by procurement errors. But his claim was dismissed. He thereupon filed suit in the Court of Federal Claims, which he later lost. However, he is now hopeful of winning this new contract to create a lander that will operate in parallel to SpaceX’s. for post-Artemis III missionsthat is, for 2026 and 2027.

'Artemis': NASA's ambitious mission that wants to put the first woman on the surface of the Moon by 2024

For now, much of the focus is on Artemis I, the first major step in the program to return to the Moon. NASA’s massive SLS rocket is ready for its first uncrewed test flight, scheduled to take place in the summer of this year. Artemis II will be the first manned mission, although the astronauts will not descend to the satellite. That will happen on Artemis III, which will use SpaceX’s Human Landing System (HLS) as a lunar lander.

Pictures | POT

The NASA has announced what will fund a second lunar lander for the Artemis program, which aims to land the…

The NASA has announced what will fund a second lunar lander for the Artemis program, which aims to land the…

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