Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk will compete on the Moon

Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, the two richest people in the US, will also compete on the Moon.

NASA has chosen the Blue Origin company of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, to build the ship with which the astronauts of the Artemis 5 mission will reach the Moon, scheduled for 2029, the space agency announced on Friday.

Blue Origin thus becomes the second company to obtain a NASA contract to take astronauts to the Moon after SpaceX, founded and directed by Elon Musk, was chosen two years ago for the Artemis 3 and Artemis 4 missions, scheduled to 2025 and 2028.

“We want more competition. It means that we will have more reliability,” Bill Nelson, director of NASA, declared at a press conference.

Blue Origin had denounced NASA’s initial decision to contract only SpaceX for the moon landings after the space agency had announced it would contract two companies. NASA justified it due to lack of budget at that time.

The Artemis 5 mission plan calls for astronauts to first travel from Earth to the future Gateway orbital station, which will orbit the Moon. They will make the journey in a NASA-European Space Agency (ESA) Orion capsule, which will have been launched by a NASA SLS rocket.

Blue Origin’s ship, called Blue Moon, will have been previously launched and will be docked at the Gateway station. Once it reaches Gateway, a part of the crew will go down with Blue Moon to the south polar region of the Moon, where they will work for about a week. Then the astronauts will return to Gateway with the Blue Moon spacecraft and from there they will return to Earth with the Orion capsule.

Before carrying astronauts, the Blue Moon spacecraft will go down to the lunar surface in an unmanned test mission that is scheduled to take place in 2028. NASA’s contract to design the spacecraft, build it, test it and ultimately carry astronauts to the Moon amounts to 3.4 billion dollars.

Blue Origin has partnered with Boeing and Lockheed Martin on the project, two companies that have worked with NASA for decades, as well as smaller companies like Astrobotic and Honeybee Robotics.

Although Artemis 5 is scheduled for 2029, the date could be pushed back if any of the previous missions in the Artemis program are delayed. So far only Artemis 1 has been launched, in which an unmanned Orion spacecraft was placed in orbit around the Moon and returned to Earth at the end of 2022.

Artemis 2 is scheduled for November 2024 with astronauts on board if NASA manages to resolve in time the small malfunctions detected in the SLS rocket and in the Orion spacecraft on its first mission.

The Artemis 3 and 4 missions will be launched with SpaceX’s Starship rocket, which will launch the ship also called the Starship in which the astronauts will travel. However, the rocket exploded four minutes after liftoff on its first launch on April 20. SpaceX has not yet announced a date for a second launch.

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Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk will compete on the Moon