The National Aeronautics and Space Administration awarded five companies a contract to ensure the steady trips to the moon as part of the Artemis mission. The five companies will further develop the mission's designs, interfaces, and other standards and procedures. Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin private space company was one of the five companies awarded with the contract despite its current suit against NASA.
NASA's $146 Million Moon Landing System Contract
In an announcement on Tuesday, September 14, NASA awarded five U.S. companies a total of $146 million in contracts to develop moon-lander designs, Business Insider reported. The contracts are a part of the Artemis program, which aims to send astronauts back to the moon by 2024.
The contract is specifically for what NASA calls Appendix N of its Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP). It is a project to develop long-term human landing system designs for missions after Artemis 3. The Artemis program is the first crewed lunar landing mission.
The five companies selected were Blue Origin, Dynetics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and SpaceX, said India Today.
The five companies have worked on delivering space-based technology in the past. They are now tasked to develop lander design concepts and evaluate their performance, design, construction standards, mission insurance requirements, as well as interfaces, safety, crew health accommodations, and medical capabilities. The companies will also conduct critical component tests to mitigate lunar lander risks, advancing the maturity of key technologies.
According to Space News, three of these companies are part of the "National Team," with Blue Origin leading it, receiving $25.6 million. Lockheed Martin received $35.2 million from the contract, and Northrop Grumman received $34.8 million.
Dynetics was awarded $40.8 million, while SpaceX received $9.4 million. This project is different from the $2.9 billion lunar lander contract NASA awarded to SpaceX back in April, Business Insider noted. This decision was what Blue Origin protested and sued NASA for.
Technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility completed the welding on Orion's pressure vessel which will carry @NASA_Astronauts to the Moon on #Artemis III. https://t.co/jhLXxozv1A pic.twitter.com/zKbJrWzOls— Orion Spacecraft (@NASA_Orion) September 10, 2021
NASA Artemis Mission
NASA's Artemis Mission is to return to the moon for "scientific discovery, economic benefits, and inspiration for a new generation of explorers: the Artemis Generation." Instead of a brief visit, NASA intends to establish a long-term presence on the moon.
Hosting the multiple landings to the moon, the Artemis Base Camp on the surface and the Gateway in lunar orbit will be built, providing space for robots and astronauts to conduct more science and other explorations.
The Artemis missions will also be how NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the moon, hoping to spark new audience, engaging and inspiring the "Artemis Generation."
The missions will be essential building blocks to NASA's other mission: to send humans to Mars. Establishing a sustainable presence on the Earth's natural satellite will prepare for future Red Planet missions.