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Blue Origin Awarded NASA Contract to Provide Lunar Lander for Artemis V Moon Mission

2023

NASA announced that Blue Origin has been awarded a contract to supply a lunar lander for the Artemis V moon mission, scheduled for 2029. This comes two years after Blue Origin lost a bid to build similar vehicles for the Artemis III and IV missions.

Leading a consortium that includes Lockheed Martin and Boeing, Blue Origin will design and build the lander with a funding contribution of $3.4 billion from NASA. According to The New York Times, Blue Origin's VP for lunar transportation also confirmed that their company plans to invest even more than the provided funding for the project.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson expressed enthusiasm, stating, "We are in a golden age of human spaceflight, which is made possible by NASA's commercial and international partnerships. Together, we are making an investment in the infrastructure that will pave the way to land the first astronauts on Mars."

Now, the real work begins. Blue Origin will commence the design, construction, and testing of a new lander that meets NASA's mission requirements. This includes the capability to dock with Gateway, a planned space station that will facilitate crew transfer into lunar orbit. The contract encompasses an uncrewed moon landing demonstration as well as the crewed Artemis V mission set for 2029.

In 2021, Blue Origin and another company lost a contract to supply vehicles for Artemis III and IV to SpaceX, which aims to return humans to the moon's surface after over half a century. SpaceX's proposal was estimated at $2.9 billion, while Blue Origin's reached $6 billion.

Following the unsuccessful bid, Blue Origin filed a lawsuit against NASA, alleging unfair evaluation of their proposal. However, a subsequent 76-page report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) upheld NASA's decision to choose SpaceX's lower-cost contract. The report cited concerns about Blue Origin's proposal lacking proper safeguards for landing in the dark. The GAO stated that NASA was not obliged to include every minute detail, and Blue Origin should have considered the conditions of the moon and space, including darkness.

Despite the legal setback, Blue Origin has apparently revised its proposal process, addressing previous concerns such as landing in the dark. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Blue Origin, acknowledged the court's judgment and wished "full success for NASA and SpaceX on the contract."

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