Sunday, June 4, 2023

NASA chooses Blue Origin to build next lunar lander

Cape Canaveral – Jeff Bezos’ rocket company has won a NASA contract to fly astronauts to the moon, two years after losing out to SpaceX.

Blue Origin was awarded a $3.4 billion contract on Friday to lead a team to develop a lunar lander called Blue Moon. It will be used to carry astronauts to the lunar surface starting in 2029, after a few missions with Elon Musk’s SpaceX crew.

NASA will use its own rockets and capsules to get astronauts to lunar orbit, but it wants private companies to take it from there.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the agency wants different moon landing options as it seeks to return the United States to the moon more than half a century after the end of the Apollo program of lunar missions.

Blue Origin is putting billions of dollars in addition to the NASA contract to help establish a permanent presence on the Moon. “We have a lot to do before we can successfully launch and return astronauts,” said John Koulouris, Blue Origin’s vice president.

Two years ago, Blue Origin filed a lawsuit after NASA awarded SpaceX the contract for the first lunar mission. A federal judge upheld the space agency’s decision.

NASA’s Artemis program, which follows up on the Apollo moon flights of the 1960s and 1970s, began late last year with a successful test flight. Launched on NASA’s Amavasya rocket, an unmanned Orion capsule entered lunar orbit before returning to Earth.

The next Artemis flight will be late next year, when a Canadian and three American astronauts will fly to the Moon and back, but without landing. No earlier than the end of 2025, two Americans aboard a SpaceX spacecraft will land on the lunar surface on the next mission.

Like SpaceX, Blue Origin plans to practice landing on the moon without a crew, before boarding astronauts.

While the gleaming stainless steel Starship has a sci-fi look, the Blue Moon is more like a traditional capsule atop a tall, legged box. The latter would be located 16 m (52 ​​ft) above the Moon.

The landing landers of both the companies are expected to be reusable.

Blue Origin will use its New Glenn rocket for its lunar mission from Cape Canaveral, which is still under development. Starship, the world’s largest rocket, launched last month in South Texas, but the test flight ended with an explosion and fireballs within minutes of liftoff.

The Blue Origin team includes five partners: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Draper, Astrobiotic Technology and Honeybee Robotics.

According to NASA, only one other bid was submitted to bid on the contract.

The Associated Press receives support for its health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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