Jeff Bezos says Blue Origin will lead private team to finally return to the moon
It’s a lunar dream team.
Bezos made the announcement at the ongoing International Astronautical Congress (IAC), which kicked off on Monday in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, he received the IAC’s first Excellence in Industry Award for his company’s contributions to human presence in space.
Blue Origin will be the lead contractor for a newly formed “national team,” as Bezos referred to it, joining forces with aerospace veterans Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper to build a lunar landing system that transports humans to the moon.
“We could not ask for better partners,” Bezos told the crowd at the IAC. “This is a national team for a national priority.”
All three companies have worked with NASA before on some pretty major missions.
Northrop Grumman designed and executed the lunar module used to carry astronauts to and from the moon’s surface for the first time in history during the Apollo mission. For humankind’s return to the moon, the company will be designing a vehicle to bring the lunar lander toward the moon in the lunar orbit.
Draper also worked on the Apollo mission, developing software for navigation and the flight control system for the lunar module. For the 2024 Artemis mission, the company has the same assignment, but this time with much different, much more advanced technology.
“We guided Apollo to the moon and back nearly 50 years ago. We’re ready to do it again with the Blue Origin team for Artemis,” Kaigham J. Gabriel, President and CEO of Draper, said in a statement.
Lockheed Martin built the propellant launch escape motor and the pitch control motor for the spacecraft used during the Apollo mission. The company is already building NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which will be used for Artemis in 2024, starting with an initial order of six vehicles. As part of the collaborative contract with Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin will build the reusable Ascent Element vehicle, designed to take astronauts back to the lunar orbit once their work on the moon’s surface is complete, and will also lead the crew’s training.
For its part, Blue Origin will be putting the Blue Moon lunar lander to use. In May, Bezos unveiled the mockup for Blue Moon, which is on display at the conference center where IAC is being held.
“Combining our partners’ heritage with our advance work on the Blue Moon lunar lander and its BE-7 engine, our team is looking forward to working with NASA in support of the Artemis program,” Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin, said in a statement.
In May 2019, NASA granted $45.5 million to 11 private aerospace companies, including Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, to develop spacecraft for the Artemis mission. During his opening remarks at IAC on Monday, Vice President Mike Pence emphasized the US dedication to a public-private collaboration that gets American astronauts on the moon.
“Our administration is committed to ensuring that the United States also leverages the power of private enterprise in space,” he said. “Even now NASA is leading a commercial friendly effort to develop orbital platforms that will one day replace the [International Space Station], as well as the human lunar landers that will carry us back to the moon.”