NASA to announce which companies will carry humans to the moon, develop lunar lander

Blue Origin, SpaceX, Boeing all vying to return astronauts to lunar surface for NASA

Artist’s concept of a human landing system and its crew on the lunar surface. NASA announced 11 companies that will develop hardware and conduct studies for the Artemis program. (Image: NASA)

After receiving bids to build a human moon lander from major space companies including SpaceX, Boeing and Blue Origin, NASA said it will announce Thursday which companies will carry astronauts back to the moon for the first time since the Apollo program.

NASA will award multiple contracts to develop and demonstrate a human landing system. The first company to complete its lander will carry astronauts to the surface in 2024, and the second company will land in 2025, according to the space agency.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will announce Thursday at 1 p.m. which companies will be tasked will landing humans on the moon again.

In September, NASA sought proposals for human lunar landing systems from American companies and by the November deadline all the big names in space had thrown their hard hats in the ring.

Here’s a look at the big contenders:

Jeff Bezos’ space startup Blue Origin formed a national team with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper to develop a system to land astronauts on the lunar surface in time to meet NASA’s five-year goal. Blue Origin will provide the descent element, based on its Blue Moon lunar lander and BE-7 engine, for the human landing system.

SpaceX hasn’t revealed any details about its proposal for the human lander, however, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell previously said the company plans to play a role in the Artemis program but declined to give any specifics.

Boeing’s plans include delivering the moon lander’s ascent element and descent element to lunar orbit in one launch, using NASA’s Space Launch System, the mega rocket underdevelopment that will launch from Kennedy Space Center. SLS is slated to launch for the first time in late 2021.

Click here for more information about all their plans.

Why this is a big deal? NASA hasn’t released a cost estimate for the contract but the landers will be a major part of the space agency’s plan to send humans back to the moon by 2024.

Artemis will require NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, the Orion spacecraft and a Lunar Gateway. That’s where having multiple moon landers will comes in. The astronauts will use landers to shuttle back and forth from the lunar surface to the Gateway.