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A visualization of the lander (Source: Blue Origin)

When Artemis V’s astronauts touch down on the Moon’s surface, they will be aboard a Blue Origin-built lunar lander, the Blue Moon. That was the news out of NASA this past Friday, who announced the collaboration with the aerospace company after a lengthy bidding war with rival company Dynetics. Blue Origin had previously hoped to secure the contract for Artemis III and Artemis IV’s landing missions, which will instead touchdown with the SpaceX-built Starship HLS (Human Landing System). These three landing missions are currently slotted for 2025, 2028, and 2029 and will follow Artemis II’s lunar flyby next year.

NASA’s contracting of Blue Origin is a reminder of the space agency’s heavy reliance on private sector resources to cut down on costs for the Artemis program. The contract is still quite expensive though, coming in with a $3.4 billion price tag for the lander. The extra cost, however, assures a redundancy in the event of one company’s lander failing, as well as growing the aerospace industry. The Artemis Program has become a new arena in the Billionaire Space Race, with Elon Musk’s SpaceX handling landing on Artemis III and IV, while Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin’s lander will be used on Artemis V.

The Blue Moon, outfitted for exploration. (Source: Blue Origin)

The reusable Blue Moon lander will ferry two of the four person Artemis V crew from the to-be-built Lunar Gateway satellite down to the Moon’s surface. The lander will be large, standing fifty feet tall, and able to support two astronauts on the moon during a week-long stay. The lander can also be outfitted to shuttle unmanned payloads like scientific equipment and lunar vehicles down to the Moon’s surface, an important step in the planned establishment of a permanent Moon base. Along with Blue Origin, the lander is currently in development with the help of Boeing, Lockheed Martin and a number of other partners.

As with any news out of the Artemis Program, the actual implementation of the Blue Moon is a long ways off, at least six years and possibly more as the missions’ timeline is likely to expand. Still, a clearer picture is forming of the Artemis missions, and what tools will be used to return humanity to the lunar surface.

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