NASA, the American space agency, has reportedly awarded a total of $146 million in contracts to five US companies, including Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, for developing moon-lander designs.
According to reports, the contracts are part of the space agency’s Artemis program. For the unversed, the program is slated to take place over the following 15 months and aims to send humans back to the lunar surface by 2024.
Blue Origin received a $25.6 million contract, while SpaceX obtained a contract worth $9.4 million, as per the agency’s announcement. The remaining awards included a contract worth $34.8 million awarded to Northrop Grumman, a $40.8 million contract for Dynetics, and a contract worth $35.2 million to Lockheed Martin, NASA stated.
NASA further mentioned that the five companies would create design concepts for sustainable lunar lander to help the agency frequently transport astronauts to the moon's surface. The agency would supposedly assess the performance and safety of these lunar lander concepts while minimizing any risks involved.
Lisa Watson-Morgan, program manager for Human Landing System at NASA, stated that collaboration with its partners is important for the agency to realize its long-term lunar exploration goals. She added that teaming up with innovative US companies would enable NASA to develop a strong lunar economy while probing new areas of the Moon for future generations.
It is worth noting that this project is unrelated to the $2.9 billion NASA contract awarded to SpaceX in April for a lunar lander. According to the exclusive contract, which Blue Origin failed to secure, NASA astronauts would set flight for the moon in SpaceX's Starship for the first time since 1972, reports suggest.
As per reliable sources, NASA decided to award the landing-system contract only to SpaceX, even though it was expected to choose two firms. On this account, Blue Origin has evidently filed a complaint against the agency. Additionally, Bezos' business had apparently promised to pay up to $2 billion for the initial two years of the manufacturing of a moon lander.