NASA picked Elon Musk’s SpaceX to receive $2.9 billion to build a lunar lander as part of the Artemis mission to send humans to the Moon by 2024, the agency announced today. It’s a major vote of confidence in SpaceX from NASA — as no other company received money. The contract between NASA and SpaceX is expected to be signed on May 1.
Four astronauts will launch on NASA’s Space Launch System, aboard the Orion spacecraft. From there, two people will then transfer to SpaceX’s lunar lander. They’ll spend about a week exploring the surface of the moon, then get aboard the lander and head back to Orion. SpaceX will have to do an uncrewed flight of the lander before any humans come aboard, though.
The SpaceX contract is for an uncrewed flight and a single crewed landing. Subsequent landings will be awarded under a follow-up procurement program. NASA said it would begin talking with the industry about the follow-up program next week.
There were three major contenders for the project. SpaceX beat out Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, working with a selection of other aerospace companies, and Dynetics, a defense contractor. NASA had previously rewarded all three contenders with a combined $967 million to develop lunar lander concepts.
Read more: The Verge