23 C
Los Angeles
Sunday, June 4, 2023

China Urges Japan to Halt Export Restrictions on Chips

China's commerce minister on Monday urged Japan...

Modi inaugurates new parliament building, opposition parties protest

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, inaugurated a...

Blue Origin, led by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Wins NASA Contract to Build an Astronaut Lunar Lander

A team led by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has won a coveted $3.4 billion NASA contract to build a spacecraft to fly astronauts to and from the moon’s surface, the U.S. space agency said on Friday. The award is a breakthrough for the company two years after it lost out to Tesla founder Elon Musk’s SpaceX in another competition.

Blue Origin’s lunar lander will be part of NASA’s Artemis program, aimed at landing astronauts on the moon for the first time in over half a century. The mission is scheduled to be launched in 2029. Blue Origin’s lander will be powered by liquid oxygen-liquid hydrogen, a fuel combination that requires storing the propellant in icy conditions. The spacecraft will carry astronauts and cargo to the lunar surface. Blue Origin’s Vice President for Lunar Transportation, John Couluris, said the lander could also be configured to deliver 30 metric tons of cargo for the return trip to Earth, which could provide building materials and other necessities. Couluris wouldn’t disclose how much Blue Origin will contribute toward the lander’s cost. However, he said the firm would absorb any cost overruns. Some members of Congress have complained that providing taxpayer dollars to Blue Origin amounts to giving the rocket and space company a “taxpayer-financed moon ticket.”

The contract award follows a pattern in recent years: NASA pays private companies to develop astronaut spacecraft, then uses them for missions rather than spending more to own them outright. Last year, the agency awarded another billionaire, Musk, $3 billion to build a spacecraft called Starship that he hopes will return astronauts to the moon for the first time since the final Apollo mission in 1972.

This latest award for Blue Origin was a long-awaited outcome for the company, which has invested billions in competing for high-profile space awards with SpaceX, a dominant force in commercial and government satellite launches and human spaceflight. NASA 2021 awarded SpaceX a fixed-price contract to produce its initial moon lander, saying it had to choose one company due to budget constraints. Blue Origin and its bid partner, Leidos-owned defense contractor Dynetics Inc, protested that decision, first with a watchdog agency and later in court but ultimately failed to reverse the choice.

The new contract is a sign of the growing competitiveness of Blue Origin, which has made rapid progress since Bezos started it in 2000. The space company has a fleet of rockets capable of delivering satellites to orbit and people to the moon, but it is still a more minor player than SpaceX in revenue. Bezos, worth over $180 billion, is second only to fellow billionaire and Twitter and PayPal founder Musk in the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest people. The two have a longstanding rivalry that extends beyond their business interests. In the past, they have sparred in public over their respective personal fortunes. In addition, they are both investors in the same tech companies, which has helped them achieve enormous wealth.

Check out our other content

Check out other tags:

Most Popular Articles