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NASA wants astronauts back on the moon’s surface in the next four years, and to do so, they needed a little help. So, they reached out to two major space fans: Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. Yes, the two billionaires were asked to develop lunar landers for human space exploration.
“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,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement. “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.”
Those companies include Musk’s Space X and Bezos’ Blue Origin, as well as another company called Dynetics owned by Leidos Holdings. The goal is for these companies to develop a base camp on the moon to have a regular landing spot for astronauts. Plus, they want it to be a launchpad for future space exploration, including a visit to Mars in the 2030s.
SpaceX’s proposal involved using its Starship vehicle that will also help to colonize Mars, according to Space.com. Blue Origin’s vision has a smaller landing vehicle, ascent vehicle, and transfer stage. Dynetics’ system is two-stage with an ascent and descent. NASA will work with the teams over the next 10 months before determining who will win the contract worth $967 million.
“This will be the next major milestone in the history of human space flight, and we’re honored to be a part of it,” said Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin, in a statement. “It’s time to go back to the Moon, this time to stay.”