NASA chooses Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build a spaceship to bring humans back to the moon | SpaceX

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NASA chose SpaceX to build the next-generation spacecraft that will bring humans back to the moon, further strengthening Elon Musk’s grip on the burgeoning public-private space industry.

The $ 2.9 billion contract to build the lunar lander that will spearhead the Artemis program, NASA’s ambitious plan to return to the moon for the first time since the last Apollo mission in 1972 , was announced on Friday.

“The lunar landing of Artemis is a key part of our Moon-Mars strategy,” Steve Jurczyk, acting NASA administrator, told reporters. “Today is a big step forward. It’s an amazing time to get involved in human exploration for all of humanity. “

Musk’s company is currently the only operation capable of launching astronauts from American soil. But NASA’s decision to bring in a single contractor for its Human Landing System (HLS) has raised eyebrows.

Traditionally, the agency has preferred to stimulate competition and guard against setbacks by keeping at least two contractors on the payroll.

This time, in part for budgetary reasons, NASA chose to reject the proposals of Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, a partnership with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper; and defense contractor Dynetics.

The three offers were selected for the preliminary stages of the HLS project in 2020.

SpaceX's SN15 spacecraft prototype sits on a launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas this week.
SpaceX’s SN15 spacecraft prototype sits on a launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas this week. Photograph: Miguel Roberts / AP

“Congratulations to SpaceX, but [I’m] honestly shocked, NASA chooses only one supplier here, ”said Casey Dreier, senior space policy advisor. in a tweet. “Of course, SpaceX always acts like it’s constant competition with itself. And it comes 100% on its capabilities and the price promised so far. “

Dreier calculated that “if SpaceX does this, the United States will get a human-capable lunar landing system for 13% of the cost of Apollo-era hardware.”

The Artemis program also includes the Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket ever built, and the Orion spacecraft that will transport the crews. SpaceX’s bid includes its Starship landing system, which is currently under development.

NASA said the Artemis program will land the first woman and the first person of color on the moon. The Trump administration ordered the agency to meet the target by 2024, but the timeline has slipped due to budget cuts.

Joe Biden’s request to Congress, announced earlier this month, targets $ 24.7 billion for NASA, a 6.3% increase from the previous year, including $ 6.9 billion for Artemis.

After the withdrawal of the space shuttle fleet in 2011, the United States was unable to launch humans into space for nine years. Now, SpaceX continues to advance its human spaceflight program. Since May 2020, he has sent two crews to the International Space Station. A third mission, Crew 2, is slated to launch on April 22.

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