NASA has selected SpaceX, Elon Musk's company, to take astronauts to the Moon on a mission that will take place in 2022.
The company, which was competing with Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Defense Department contractor Dynetics, will receive 2.89 billion dollars for the contract.
The mission entrusted to Musk's company is part of the Artemis program and it is called Human Landing System (HLS).
HLS plans to bring two astronauts on the surface of the Moon, something that has not been done for 5 decades.
NASA specified in a press conference that they chose the one that best suited the needs of the Artemis program, its lunar strategy, federal government budget and landing safety.
The HLS contract provides for a lunar launch and landing "as early as 2024."
Musk's company will thus be in charge of continuing the development of the first commercial human lander that will safely carry the next two American astronauts to the lunar surface.
At least one of those astronauts will make history as the first woman on the Moon.
The agency's Space Launch System rocket will launch a total of four astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft for its multi-day trip to lunar orbit.
There, two of them will be transferred to SpaceX's Human Landing System (HLS) for the final leg of their journey to the surface of the Moon.
After about a week exploring the surface, they will board the lander for their short trip back to orbit, where they will return to Orion before returning to Earth.
"This critical step sets humanity on the path to sustainable lunar exploration and keeps our eyes on missions further afield in the solar system, including Mars," said Kathy Lueders, chief of NASA's manned missions.
Unlike the Apollo lunar landing, more than 50 years ago, NASA is preparing for a long-term presence on this satellite of Earth.
This presence will allow humans to reach Mars with the help of the private sector.
- NASA: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/as-artemis-moves-forward-nasa-picks-spacex-to-land-next-americans-on-moon