NASA has named three privately owned companies to develop the next lunar landers that will ascend to the Moon’s surface in 2024—and beyond. The three respected contracts include those owned by Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
“This is the first time since the Apollo era that NASA has direct funding for a human landing system, and now we have companies on contract to do the work for the Artemis program,” said Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, in a statement.
The three teams, which include Bezos’ Blue Origin, Musk’s Space X and Dynetics, will each build their own version of a lunar landing system of NASA’s Artemis Base Camp program, with only one to be selected to move forward.
Set to be located in the Shackleton Crater at the Moon’s south pole, the Artemis Base Camp, will provide a sustainable, long-term presence on the Moon while also serving as a launchpad for further exploration of Mars, although the latter is not projected to happen for at least another decade.
“This will be the next major milestone in the history of human space flight, and we’re honored to be a part of it,” Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin, said in a statement. “It’s time to go back to the Moon, this time to stay.”
NASA has said that it plans to work with the three teams over the course of ten months while assessing the progress of each system. The organisation will then select which team will move forward for more advanced testing before serving as the lunar lander.
When NASA does eventually send its astronauts to the Moon in 2024, it will be the first time that generations of people witness humans walking outside of the earth. The association hopes that by building the proper infrastructure now (including the lunar lander) that it will foster a long-term, sustainable presence on the Moon.