Moon is seen in the sky during the closest visible conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 400 years, in Tejeda, on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain December 21, 2020 Photograph:( Reuters )
The contract will see NASA’s first commercial human lander, constituent of its Artemis programme
NASA on Friday awarded a $2.9 billion contract to build a spacecraft to SpaceX. The goal is to put humans on the moon again, as early as 2024. Elon Musk’s SpaceX was picked by NASA over Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Dynetics Inc, a defence contractor.
The world’s first and third richest people respectively, Bezos and Musk have been competing to be at the helm of man’s return to moon for the first time since 1972.
While Musk’s SpaceX made its bid alone, Bezos’ Blue Origin had partnered with Lockheed Martin Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp and Draper. Soon after the announcement, Elon Musk took to Twitter, announcing “NASA Rules!!”.
The contract will see NASA’s first commercial human lander, constituent of its Artemis programme. The agency added that the lander will carry in it two American astronauts to the moon’s surface.
"We should accomplish the next landing as soon as possible… If they hit their milestones, we have a shot at 2024," Steve Jurczyk, NASA's acting administrator said during the announcement made virtually.
According to NASA, SpaceX’s Starship system included a cabin and two airlocks to facilitate moonwalks. In addition, the architecture of the system allows it to to eventually used for reusable launch and landing.
"We are humbled to help @NASAArtemis usher in a new era of human space exploration”, SpaceX wrote on Twitter.
Apollo landings from 1969-1972 mark the only human visits to the moon’s surface. Now, NASA is relying on private companies to send astronauts to the moon to complete its space ambition projects.
But before humans make the journey, SpaceX will be required to conduct a test flight of the lander to the moon. On Thursday, NASA had announced plans to send its crew to the International Space Station on a SpaceX rocket on April 22.
(With inputs from agencies)