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Blue Origin to compete with SpaceX for NASA contract for another lunar lander.
The aerospace company Blue Origin, founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, has teamed up with Boeing and Lockheed Martin to build a lunar lander that can take NASA astronauts to the moon and back to the Orion spacecraft, which will take them from Earth to return to it. Previously, SpaceX received a contract to deliver astronauts to our natural satellite.
On Tuesday, Blue Origin said on Twitter that the company, along with a group of other aerospace businesses, has applied to develop a lunar lander. Last year, NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to use a special version of the Starship to carry astronauts to and from the moon on a mission scheduled for 2025.
NASA's decision to award a single lander contract to SpaceX sparked protests from Blue Origin and even a lawsuit from the company against NASA, but the aerospace agency's decision has so far remained unchanged. Additionally, Bezos wrote a letter to NASA CEO Bill Nelson. “Instead of investing in two competing lunar landers, as originally intended, the agency chose to give SpaceX a multi-year, multi-billion dollar head start,” the billionaire said.
In a desperate bid to succeed, Bezos offered to lower the price by waiving Blue Origin's demand for its lander and promising to conduct and pay for the test mission himself with company funds. Although NASA was in no hurry to comply, the agency had to face pressure from the US Congress, after which it was forced to agree to consider proposals from companies other than SpaceX to build a second module. However, in parallel, NASA agreed to provide SpaceX with additional work using Starship. It recently commissioned the company to carry out an additional moon landing in 2027.
NASA needs landers to transport astronauts from Orion, which will be in lunar orbit, and back. The agency launched the first lunar mission under the Artemis program last month, and the unmanned Orion used on this flight is due to return to Earth next Sunday, December 11th.
In order to emerge victorious in the fight for the right to build a second lander, Blue Origin and partners will have to work hard. At the meeting of investors of Leidos Holdings Inc. it was stated that she was ready to submit her own application. According to NASA, the names of those participating in the competition will be known after the approval of the project and the expiration of the deadline for appealing applications.