SpaceX thumps competition to bag NASA’s $2.9bn moon lander contract

By Ashika Rajan, Trainee Reporter
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US space entity NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has announced that it had awarded a contract to Mr. Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX for $2.9 billion to develop a spacecraft that will take astronauts to the moon as early as 2024.

SpaceX has now surpassed Mr. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and other rocket manufactures, emphasizing how it has become NASA’s most visible partner in the human spaceflight program.

The US space agency awarded the contract for the first commercial human lander, as part of its Artemis program. NASA said that the lander would bring two American astronauts to the lunar surface.

Mr. Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s Acting Administrator pointed out that “we should accomplish the next landing as soon as possible. If they hit their milestones, we have a shot at 2024.”

According to NASA, SpaceX’s Starship has a large cabin and two airlocks for astronaut moonwalks, and its construction is planned to develop into a completely reusable launch and landing system for trips to the Moon, Mars, and other destinations in space.

SpaceX tweeted that “we are humbled to help @NASAArtemis usher in a new era of human space exploration.”

Unlike the Apollo landings, which were the only human visits to the moon’s surface from 1969 to 1972, NASA is planning a longer-term lunar presence as a stepping stone to an even more ambitious mission to send astronauts to Mars. NASA is relying heavily on private companies with common space exploration visions.

NASA had planned to winnow the lunar lander competition to two companies by the end of April but instead chose only SpaceX, deepening their partnership. NASA said that it would send its crew to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX rocket on April 22. The agency intends to provide daily lunar service and has announced that a separate competition will be held for that contract.

Mr. Mark Kirasich, Deputy Associate Administrator for NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems division remarked that “we have to be able to provide for recurring lunar services.”

The announcement added to an incredible run for Mr. Musk, which has seen his electric car company Tesla Inc. become the world’s most successful automaker, with a market capitalization of $702 billion.

NASA pointed out that SpaceX’s HLS Starship, designed to land on the moon, “leans on the company’s tested Raptor engines and flight heritage of the Falcon and Dragon vehicles.”

NASA’s decision was a setback for Mr. Bezos, a lifelong space enthusiast who is now concentrating on his space venture.

Mr. Bezos and other executives saw the deal as vital to Blue Origin establishing itself as a desired partner for NASA while also placing the venture on the path to profitability.

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