SpaceX has won a $3 billion contract with NASA to build a spacecraft to carry astronauts to the moon, the agency announced Friday.
NASA is getting ready to send astronauts to explore more of the Moon as part of the Artemis program. SpaceX will continue the development of the first commercial human lander that will carry the next two American astronauts to the lunar surface.
Other companies in contention were Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Leidos subsidiary Dynetics. All three companies were previously awarded a total of $967 million to develop concepts for the vehicle. The new award to SpaceX was a surprise. It was expected that the contract would be distributed to multiple companies.
The NASA Space Launch System rocket will launch four astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft for their multi-day journey to lunar orbit. Two crew members will then transfer to the SpaceX human landing system (HLS) for the final leg of their journey to the surface of the Moon. After a week exploring the surface, they will board the lander for their trip back to orbit where they will return to Orion and their colleagues before heading back to Earth.
At least one of those astronauts will make history as the first woman on the Moon. Another goal of the Artemis program includes landing the first person of color on the lunar surface.