NASA has chosen Blue Origin of Kent, Washington to create a human landing system for the organization’s Artemis V mission to the Moon. NASA will explore more of the Moon than ever before with Artemis, making more scientific discoveries and getting ready for manned expeditions to Mars in the future.
In order to comply with NASA’s requirements for human landing systems for repeated astronaut missions to the lunar surface, including docking with Gateway, a space station where personnel transfer in lunar orbit, Blue Origin will design, develop, test, and validate its Blue Moon lander. The contract also calls for design and development work and one unmanned lunar surface demonstration trip before a crewed demonstration on the Artemis V mission in 2029. The firm-fixed-price contract has a $3.4 billion total award value.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stated, “Today we are excited to announce Blue Origin will design a human landing system as NASA’s second provider to carry Artemis people to the lunar surface. “Human spaceflight is entering a golden age, made possible by NASA’s partnerships with the private sector and other nations. Together, we are investing in the infrastructure that will enable the first astronauts to set foot on Mars.
Four people will be sent into lunar orbit on the Artemis V mission by NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket in an Orion spacecraft. Two astronauts will board Blue Origin’s human landing system after Orion docks with Gateway and travel for about a week to the Moon’s South Pole region where they will carry out scientific and exploration tasks. As part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, Artemis V is at the crossroads of showcasing the agency’s early lunar exploration capabilities and laying the groundwork for repeating sophisticated missions in lunar orbit and on the surface.
The addition of a second human landing system partner to NASA’s Artemis program will increase competition, lower taxpayer costs, support a regular cadence of lunar landings, contribute even more to the lunar economy, and aid NASA in achieving its objectives on and around the Moon in order to prepare for future astronaut missions to Mars.
To demonstrate a first human landing technology for the Artemis III mission, the ESA previously hired SpaceX. In accordance with the terms of that contract, the agency further instructed SpaceX to adapt its design to satisfy the needs of the organization for sustainable exploration and to demonstrate the lander on Artemis IV.
Multiple providers will be available to compete for future opportunities to fulfill NASA’s lunar surface access needs for Artemis missions as a result of the contract with Blue Origin to demonstrate on Artemis V a lander that meets these same sustainable lander requirements, including increased crew size, longer mission duration, and delivery of more mass to the Moon.
NASA will help increase access to space for everybody by assisting the industry in the development of novel human landing system concepts and designs. “Having two distinct lunar lander designs, with different approaches to how they meet NASA’s mission needs, provides more robustness and ensures a regular cadence of Moon landings,” said Lisa Watson-Morgan, manager of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “This competitive approach drives innovation, brings down costs, and invests in commercial capabilities to grow business opportunities that can serve other customers and foster a lunar economy.”
As part of the continuous development of advanced space exploration technologies, capabilities, and concepts, NASA issued Appendix P of its second Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships Broad Agency Announcement (Next-STEP2 BAA) in September 2022.
NASA will send astronauts, including the first woman and person of color, to explore the Moon for scientific discovery, economic rewards, and to lay the groundwork for crewed missions to Mars via Artemis. NASA’s deep space exploration is built on the SLS rocket, Orion, Gateway, upgraded spacesuits, and human landing systems.