The billionaire boys’ space race is officially ‘GO’ for launch.
NASA announced Friday that it has awarded a group headed by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin a $3.4 billion contract to get NASA’s Artemis V team to the moon in 2029.
This second contract follows Blue Origin’s bitter loss in its first Artemis III and Artemis IV NASA bid, after it came up short to Bezos’ billionaire rival Elon Musk and his SpaceX rocket company in 2021.
Combined, the contract brings America’s taxpayer-funded payday to the two mega-rich private space jockeys to nearly $7 billion for their lunar services.
Musk will be the first of the two billionaires to help NASA deliver its astronauts to the moon with Artemis III — unless the maverick electric automaker’s penchant for delays and blown deadlines gets the better of him again.
While both men have talked publicly for decades about their ambitions in space, only Bezos has harbored dreams of a permanent moon base since high school.
But should taxpayers really be footing the bill?
DailyMail.com explains everything you need to know as the race heats up:
Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin was officially awarded a $3.4 billion contract with NASA on Friday, putting the billionaire one small step closer to putting a man on the moon. Back in 2021, Musk’s SpaceX will win $3 billion to help put humans back on the moon for the first time since 1972. Bezos had tried in vain to win that contract – then launched a failed lawsuit to overturn the decision
What happened today?
Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin was officially awarded a $3.4 billion contract with NASA on Friday, a deal that puts the billionaire one small step closer to putting a man on the moon.
‘We’re going to the Moon!’ Bezos said on Instagram, alongside a mock-up of Blue Origin’s proposed lunar lander, ‘this time to stay.’
His post teased a permanent human station on the Moon – and suggests his mission is more ambitious than Musk’s.
Back in 2021, Musk’s SpaceX will win $3 billion to help put humans back on the moon for the first time since 1972. Bezos and Blue Origin had tried in vain to win that contract – then launched a failed lawsuit to overturn the decision.
Bezos and Blue Origin not only filed a complaint protesting Musk’s victory, rejected by the Government Accountability Office, but then sued in federal court and lost again.
Now both billionaires will be taking NASA back to the moon.
How long will it take to put astronauts back on the moon?
Not long at all. NASA plans to send real, live human astronauts back to the moon in November 2024.
The mission, Artemis II, will be piloted by former US Navy and Air Force test pilot Victor Glover, who’s slated to become the first person of color to land on the Moon.
Mission specialist Christina Koch, tasked with conducting scientific experiments, will become the first woman to go to the Moon. A second mission specialist, Jeremy Hansen, will be the first Canadian on the Moon.
This crew’s commander. Reid Wiseman, previously served as NASA’s Chief of the Astronaut Office, the most senior leadership position for active astronauts at the agency. Wiseman also worked for six months in orbit aboard the International Space Station in 2014.
NASA’s own Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) will deliver the Artemis II team to the moon, one year before the space agency lets the private sector billionaires have a go.
NASA has revealed the identities of the four astronauts who will make the first trip to the moon since 1972 as part of the Artemis II mission. Victor Glover (second from left), 46, becomes the first person of color selected for a moon mission, while Christina Koch (second from right), 44, becomes the first woman. They have been chosen alongside Reid Wiseman (left), 47, from Baltimore, Maryland and Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen, 47 (right).
The Artemis II mission will see four lucky crew members take a 10-day journey around the moon in NASA’s deep space Orion capsule, gathering vital knowledge on the lunar surface
Why has NASA caved in and given a second contract?
NASA’s line is that entertaining rival bids for additional contracts will spur competition and drive down costs.
‘We want more competition,’ as NASA’s chief administrator Bill Nelson put it to reporters during an announcement event held Friday at NASA headquarters. ‘It means that you have reliability. You have backups.
The move echoes the space agency’s past approach to contracting private firms to transport cargo and crew to the International Space Station orbiting closer to Earth, which officials maintain was a smashing success.
‘We can leverage that money by working with a commercial industry and, through competition, bring those costs down to NASA,’ as Nelson argued his case before a Senate subcommittee this time last year.
‘With that competitive spirit, you get it done cheaper,’ he testified.
Hopefully NASA’s attempts to game these market forces will work, because the projected costs for the full suite of Artemis missions are currently out of this world.
How much will it all cost?
For Bezos’ Artemis V, NASA said that its fixed-price contract with its Blue Origin and its partners is worth about $3.4 billion.
An executive at Blue Origin has added, however, that the company will be matching that amount with its own financial outlay, for a total cost approaching $7 billion.
But that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the total cost of NASA’s planned Artemis missions.
The space agency’s projected total costs for Artemis through fiscal year (FY) 2025 was reported to be $86 billion.
In reality, those costs have already ballooned by the billions, according to NASA’s own internal watchdog, the Office of Inspector General (OIG).
Citing unexpected challenges with modernizing their Apollo-era moonshot infrastructure and developing NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS), the OIG estimated that the actual cost for Artemis through 2025 would come to $93 billion.
Is this a justified use of US taxpayer money?