NASA has chosen SpaceX to build spacecraft that will take humans to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo program wrapped up in 1972, the Washington Post reports. The agency will announce which company won the Artemis lunar lander contract at a press conference on Friday at 4 PM ET.
SpaceX has beaten out Blue Origin (with crucial aerospace players like Lockheed Martin) and defense contractor Dynetics to win the $2.9 billion contract. It was previously expected that NASA would select two of the companies. NASA tends to pick multiple contractors for its essential programs to promote competition and ensure there are several options if a provider can’t make good on its proposal. It chose all three for the initial step of the contract last year, but it has reportedly decided to go all-in on SpaceX.
The company pitched its Starship for the Artemis missions. Although SpaceX has encountered problems with the reusable spacecraft during testing (all prototypes have crashed and exploded thus far), NASA seems confident the company can get it right. SpaceX is still planning to take Starship into orbit later this year.
The contract would be a significant victory for SpaceX. It’s already working with NASA to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, with the following mission scheduled for April 22nd.
When the Artemis program spun up under the Trump administration, the goal was to take astronauts back to the Moon in 2024, but the timeline for the project is under review. NASA doesn’t currently have the funding it needs to make the mission happen by 2024, either. The agency plans to land a woman and person of color on the Moon for the first time through the program, and it has put together a shortlist of eligible astronauts for the early missions.
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