NASA picks Blue Origin to build the Artemis V Moon landing system
SpaceX won't be alone in ferrying astronauts to the lunar surface.
NASA has picked the company that will handle the third crewed Artemis Moon landing. Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin will build the landing system for Artemis V, which is currently set to launch in September 2029. While they didn't mention the choice of vehicle, the company is already working on a Blue Moon lander. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Draper are among those involved in the NASA project. The NASA award is worth $3.4 billion, and Blue Origin said in the announcement event that it's contributing "well north" of that figure on its own.
An Orion capsule flight will take four astronauts to the Moon, where two of the crew members will use a Blue Origin lander docked to the Gateway space station to touch down at the lunar south pole. They'll spend a week conducting moonwalks, rover operations and science experiments while the other astronauts expand and take care of the Gateway.
NASA has already chosen SpaceX's Starship for the first (Artemis III) and second (Artemis IV) human landings. The agency said it would accept proposals for a second lander last year to both provide a backup and foster competition. Blue Origin made its bid for another lunar contract last December. The company objected to SpaceX's win and sued NASA for allegedly ignoring safety concerns when awarding the contract, but a federal court dismissed the claims.
The decision is a coup for Blue Origin. While it already has a NASA contract for a Mars science mission and financial support for its Orbital Reef space station, it hasn't had success scoring a crewed trip to the Moon. This also highlights NASA's increasing reliance on privately developed technology for its missions beyond Earth orbit, such as Axiom Space's Artemis suits. Like it or not, public-private alliances like these will define American space exploration for a while.