Blue Origin will be NASA’s second provider to deliver Artemis astronauts to the surface of the moon. SpaceX has also been contracted to develop a lunar landing system.
"Having two distinct lunar lander designs, with different approaches to how they meet NASA's mission needs, provides more robustness and ensures a regular cadence of moon landings," said Lisa Watson-Morgan, manager of the Human Landing System Program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
According to NASA, having a second provider to the Artemis program will also increase competition, reduce costs to taxpayers and further invest in the lunar economy. In doing so, it helps NASA use the moon as a stepping stone for future missions to Mars.
Under a firm-fixed-price contract of $3.4 billion, Blue Origin will design, develop, test and verify its Blue Moon lander to meet NASA’s human landing system requirements for recurring astronaut expeditions to the moon’s surface, NASA said.
The contract also includes one uncrewed demonstration mission to the lunar surface before a crewed demonstration on the Artemis V mission in 2029.
For the Artemis V mission, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will launch four astronauts to lunar orbit aboard NASA's Orion spacecraft.
Once Orion docks with the space station Gateway, NASA said two astronauts will transfer to Blue Origin’s human landing system for about a weeklong trip to the moon’s South Pole region, where they will conduct science and exploration activities.