In a significant move to advance space exploration, NASA has chosen Blue Origin, based in Kent, Washington, for a $3.4 billion contract to develop a human landing system for the Artemis V mission scheduled for 2029. This decision aims to foster competition, reduce costs, facilitate regular lunar landings, and lay the groundwork for future Mars missions.
Under the Artemis program, NASA is set to explore more regions of the Moon than ever before, uncovering new scientific discoveries and preparing for upcoming astronaut missions to Mars. Explore more.
Blue Origin will be responsible for designing, developing, testing, and validating its Blue Moon lander to meet NASA’s requirements for human landing systems. This includes the crucial aspect of docking with Gateway, a space station where crew transfers occur in lunar orbit.
Alongside the design and development work, the contract includes an uncrewed demonstration mission to the lunar surface, followed by a crewed demonstration during the Artemis V mission 2029. The firm-fixed-price contract has a total award value of $3.4 billion.
Expressing his enthusiasm, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stated, “Today we are excited to announce Blue Origin will build a human landing system as NASA’s second provider to deliver Artemis astronauts to the lunar surface. We are in a golden age of human spaceflight, made possible by NASA’s commercial and international partnerships. Together, we are investing in the infrastructure that will pave the way to land the first astronauts on Mars.”
For the Artemis V mission, NASA’s powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will launch four astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft, which will dock with Gateway in lunar orbit.
From there, two astronauts will transfer to Blue Origin’s human landing system for an approximately weeklong journey to the Moon’s South Pole region. They will conduct scientific research and engage in exploration activities in this area.
Artemis V is a crucial milestone in demonstrating NASA’s initial lunar exploration capabilities and establishing foundational systems to support recurring complex missions in lunar orbit and on the surface, aligning with NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.
By engaging another partner for the human landing system under the Artemis program, NASA aims to foster healthy competition, reduce costs borne by taxpayers, ensure regular lunar landings, invest further in the lunar economy and effectively prepare for future astronaut missions to Mars.
NASA previously contracted SpaceX to demonstrate the Artemis III mission’s initial human landing system. This contract included directions for SpaceX to refine its design to meet sustainable exploration requirements and to demonstrate the lander during Artemis IV.
With Blue Origin now joining the mix and demonstrating a lander meeting the same sustainability criteria on Artemis V, including expanded crew capacity, longer mission duration, and increased payload capability to the Moon, multiple providers will be available to compete for future opportunities in fulfilling NASA’s lunar surface access needs for Artemis missions.
NASA’s support for developing innovative human landing system concepts and designs within the industry aims to enhance space accessibility for the benefit of all. The availability of two distinct lunar lander designs with unique approaches to meeting NASA’s mission requirements ensures robustness and enables a regular cadence of Moon landings.
As Lisa Watson-Morgan, manager of the Human Landing System Program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, highlights, “This competitive approach drives innovation, brings down costs, and invests in commercial capabilities to grow the business opportunities that can serve other customers and foster a lunar economy.”
NASA has established a solid foundation for deep space exploration with the SLS rocket, Orion spacecraft, Gateway, advanced spacesuits, and now the human landing systems. So, don’t miss any Tech Update.