Blue Origin, which has an engine facility in Huntsville, was announced by NASA today as the leader of the second lunar lander project aiming to put astronauts on the moon in the Artemis V program.
Partners with Blue Origin include Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which also have major operations in Huntsville, along with Draper Laboratory, Astrobotic Technology and Honeybee Robotics.
The Blue Origin team beat out a Huntsville-based rival, Dynetics.
SpaceX was selected earlier to develop the first lunar lander. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson explained in a news conference today that selection of a second lander team would ensure more reliability and backup for the program.
While going to the moon is hard, Nelson said, going to Mars will be harder. The Artemis V mission to the moon will help prepare for the next step to Mars. “The great adventure of humankind pressing out into the cosmos is here and this is a part of it,” Nelson said.
John Couluris, vice president of Blue Origin, said his company’s lander, Blue Moon, could land anywhere on the surface of the moon and that it could carry four astronauts with 30 or more days of stay time or up to 30 metric tons of cargo.
The contract is valued at $3.4 billion, and Couluris said his firm is contributing a similar amount to development efforts. In addition to NASA, Couluris said commercial customers are also interested in using the space system.
Couluris said his firm planned a series of tests leading up to an uncrewed landing a year before the astronaut-crewed landing set for 2029.
Blue Origin is owned by Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon. He founded Blue Origin in 2000 and has several other business options, including owning The Washington Post newspaper.