By Leah Crane
Some of the biggest players in the space industry are joining forces to build a moon lander. Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space flight company, has announced some high-powered partners that will help build its Blue Moon lunar lander, which was unveiled in May this year.
Blue Origin had been working quietly on its lander for three years, but plans to reach the moon accelerated in March when US vice president Mike Pence announced the directive for NASA to launch crewed missions in 2024.
Because of the time crunch, Blue Origin needs some help. The company will still be building the lander itself, but on 22 October it announced three partners for other parts of the mission.
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Northrop Grumman will build what’s called a “transfer element”, a spacecraft that will take the lander from a planned NASA space station in lunar orbit to an altitude from which it can land. Draper will provide the flight software that will help with navigation. Lockheed Martin will build the ascent vehicle that will launch astronauts off the moon and back toward home.
All three of these companies have long legacies in space flight, with decades of experience making similar products, including components of the original Apollo moon missions. Before this announcement, Lockheed Martin had even unveiled its plans for a competing lunar lander.
“National challenges call for a national response,” said Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith in a statement. “We are humbled and inspired to lead this deeply committed team that will land NASA astronauts on the moon.”
NASA has not yet officially selected Blue Origin to provide a lander, a decision which will be is expected in the coming months.
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