© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaking during conversation with legendary game designer Todd Howard at E3 game conference in Los Angeles
By Hyunjoo Jin, Raphael Satter and Munsif Vengattil
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -NASA awarded billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX company a $ 2.9 billion contract to build a spaceship that will send astronauts to the moon as early as 2024. The agency said Friday, picking it up for defense contractor and Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos Dynetics Inc.
Bezos and Musk – the world’s first and third richest people, according to Forbes – are competing to lead humanity back to the moon for the first time in 1972.
Musk’s SpaceX bids alone while Amazon.com (NASDAQ 🙂 founder Blue Origin of Bezos is partnering with Lockheed Martin Corp (NYSE :), Northrop Grumman Corp (NYSE 🙂 and Draper. Dynetics is a unit of Read Holdings (NYSE 🙂 Inc.
“Rules of NASA !!” Musk wrote on Twitter following the announcement.
The US space agency awarded the contract for the first human commercial landing craft, part of its Artemis program. NASA said the lander would carry two American astronauts to the lunar surface.
Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s power administrator, said during the video conference announcement: “We should finish the next landing as soon as possible.
Jurczyk added: “If they hit their milestones, we have a hit in 2024.
SpaceX’s Starship consists of a spacious cabin and two wind doors for astronauts walking on the moon, NASA says, and its architecture is designed to evolve into a possible launch and landing system. Fully reusable designed to travel to the Moon, Mars and other space destinations.
Unlike the Apollo landings from 1969 to 1972 – the only human visit to the lunar surface – NASA is preparing for a more permanent presence on the Moon that it envisioned as a step. Buffer for an even more ambitious plan to send astronauts to Mars. NASA is relying heavily on private companies built on a shared vision for space exploration.
SpaceX will be required to make a test flight for the lunar lander before humans make the journey, NASA official Lisa Watson-Morgan told reporters.
The agency aims to create a regular service to the moon and says it will have a separate competition for that contract.
“We must be able to provide periodic services on the moon,” said Mark Kirasich, deputy administrator of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems division.
The announcement added an unusual run for Musk, who turned electric carmaker Tesla (NASDAQ 🙂 Inc. becomes the most valuable car manufacturer in the world, with a market capitalization of $ 702 billion.
SpaceX also responded on Twitter, writing, “NASA has chosen Starship to land the first astronauts on the surface of the Moon since the Apollo program! We are honored to help @NASAArtemis usher in an era of discovery. new human space. “
Musk has become a one-man technology conglomerate, founding or controlling companies pursuing space flights, electric cars, neural implants, and underground tunnel drilling.
One factor in the selection of SpaceX is “what is the best value for the government,” said Kathy Lueders, deputy administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.
NASA said in a press release that SpaceX’s Star HLS, designed to land on the moon, “is based on the company’s tried-and-tested Raptor engine and the flying legacy of the Falcon and Dragon vehicles. . ”
NASA’s decision was a step backward for Bezos, a lifelong space enthusiast who is now more focused on his space project after announcing in February that he will step down as CEO. Amazon.
The contract is seen by Bezos and other executives as important for Blue Origin to become NASA’s desired partner, and at the same time put the venture on a profitable path.
Musk has outlined an ambitious agenda for SpaceX and its reusable rockets, including human landing on Mars. But up front, SpaceX’s main business is to launch satellites for Musk’s internet venture Starlink, among other satellites and space goods. SpaceX announced on Wednesday that it had raised about $ 1.16 billion in equity financing.
A SpaceX Starship prototype missile failed to land safely on 30 March following a test launch from Boca Chica, Texas. The Starship is one of a series of prototypes for the heavy lift missile being developed by SpaceX to carry people and 100 tons of cargo for future lunar and Mars missions. A first orbital Starship flight is scheduled for later this year.