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- Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos, is to build a second Human Landing System for NASA's Artemis program.
- The $3.4 billion fixed price contract sets sights on a reusable lunar lander ready by the end of the decade.
- The "Blue Moon" lander could revolutionize deep space exploration with its fully reusable and innovative design.
Blue Origin, the space company founded by Jeff Bezos, will be taking the reins to develop a fully reusable lander for NASA's Artemis program, writes Ars Technica.
Pegged to take flight as soon as the end of this decade, it's a momentous step for the now over 20-year-old space company.
The deal comes with a price tag of $3.4 billion. And by awarding it to Blue Origin, NASA has effectively doubled its provider base for human landing services, adding to their previous award to SpaceX for its Starship vehicle.
Stepping into the future
"It’s an incredible moment in spaceflight history," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, and he's not wrong. Both SpaceX and Blue Origin are developing spacecrafts radically different from the ones that carried humans to the moon over five decades ago.
How different, you ask? Picture a 16 meters tall lander with a dry mass of 16 metric tons. Once it's loaded with liquid hydrogen and oxygen propellants, its mass expands to a whopping 45 metric tons. This reusable lander is designed to fit snuggly within the fairing of Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket, which will catapult the unfueled vehicle to lunar orbit.
It's not just the lander's size that impresses, though. It's the technological leap that it represents. It will feature high-gain antennas for communication back to Earth, thermal radiators, and a crew module to support four astronauts for up to a month on the moon. The entire lander and the propellant tug vehicle are fully reusable, another groundbreaking feature in the lunar exploration scene.
A new chapter in lunar exploration
This is a big day for Blue Origin and NASA. NASA gets to leverage the growing commercial interest in the moon and the spaceflight dreams of billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Meanwhile, Blue Origin has a chance to make a difference in the future of deep space exploration. The $3.4 billion contract from NASA, combined with Bezos's significant funding commitment, is a clear step towards affordable and revolutionary deep space exploration.