Jeff Bezos’ space agency Blue Origin will take the first woman to the moon, the billionaire said, adding that NASA will be able to send an astronaut to the moon by 2024 before deciding whether to deliver its first privately built lunar lander.
“This is the engine that will take the first woman to the surface of the moon,” Bezos said in an Instagram post this week at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, with a video of a BE-7 engine test.
Twelve men have walked on the moon, but no women. Administrator Jim Brydenstein said last year that NASA was aiming for its transformation, the first woman to complete a lunar landing to be taken from the current astronaut corps.
“In the 1960s, young women didn’t get a chance to see them in this role,” Bridenstein said. “Today they do, and I think it’s a very exciting opportunity.”
The Blue Origin engine, which has been running year after year, has experimentally lengthened the fire time by 1,245 seconds. It is intended to power the company’s national team Human Landing System Chandra Lander.
Blue Origin, the “national team” that assembled in 2019 to help build the Blue Moon lander, is the main contractor. The team includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Drager.
Bezos’s company has worked for a lucrative government deal. In the race to build a NASA system to take humans to the moon over the next decade, it is competing with rival billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Dynamics, owned by Ledos Holdings.
In April, NASA awarded the Blue Origin team a $ 579 million contract to develop a lunar lander. SpaceX received 135m to help develop its starship system. Dynamics got $ 253m.
NASA says it will select two agencies in early March 2021 to continue building lander prototypes for crew missions starting in 2022.
Uncertainty over the Biden administration’s approach to space exploration, as well as the slim funding of the landing system that landed NASA by Congress, threatened to delay the decision.