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NASA announces Bezos, Musk, Dynetics moon competition in new space race

Concept art for the The Blue Origin National Team lander on the Moon's surface. (Blue Origin/Released)
April 30, 2020

On Thursday, NASA named three U.S. companies it has selected to develop the landers for its next Moon mission, a manned mission scheduled for 2024. The three companies will now compete to develop the best lander for carrying the NASA mission’s crew to the Moon.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX were selected to compete for the mission along with a third company, Dynetics, according to a NASA press release.

The NASA contracts, worth $967 million, will cover the cost for the companies to develop their submissions as they compete for the chance to fly the mission.

Bezos’ Blue Origin is developing a three-stage lander to be launched with NASA’s ULA Vulcan launch system.

SpaceX is also developing the “Starship” which is a lander that will use the SpaceX Super Heavy rocket.

“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,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. “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.”

The Blue Origin national team, which is partnered with Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, and Draper, celebrated the announcement in a press release emailed to American Military News.

“Our National Team brings unparalleled heritage, passion and innovation that will enable Americans to return to the lunar surface and inspire another generation. It’s time to go back to the Moon, this time to stay.”

“Putting humans back on the lunar surface is an inspiring goal for our nation,” said Blake Larson, the corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Space Systems. “We are proud to support this team and NASA with our decades of experience, comprehensive capabilities, and our proven space systems, as we return to the Moon.”

Blue Origin leads the program management for the national team and provides the descent element of its three-stage vehicle. Lockheed Martin provides the ascent element of the vehicle and develops flight training for the vehicles while Northrop Grumman provides the transfer element of the vehicle that is deployed ahead of the final descent to the Moon. Draper developed the descent guidance and avionics for the mission vehicle.

SpaceX announced its selection to proceed with the Artemis mission via Twitter.

Dynetics, a newly acquired subsidiary of Leidos, released a press statement Thursday in reaction to the NASA’s call for a design to support the mission and its effort to “compete to build a system to take the first woman and next man to the lunar surface by 2024.”

“The system’s crew module is designed to accommodate two crew members for nominal missions from lunar orbit to the lunar surface and back, including surface habitation for about a week, Dynetics said, describing its lander. ‘Alternatively, it can ferry up to four suited crew members to or from the lunar surface.”

NASA personnel will work with the competing companies to provide expertise to the companies as they have requested in their proposals for the competing landers.