SpaceX Wins Bid to Put Astronauts on the Moon

Elon Musk's SpaceX will build a spacecraft to bring astronauts to the moon in a deal with NASA that firmly places the Hawthorne-based startup as the nation's top space ally and solidifies the privatization of lunar travel.

The $2.9 billion contract could make SpaceX the first private company to send people to the moon.

"The U.S. leads in space exploration now, but more and more countries are taking aim at the moon," NASA's acting administrator Steve Jurczyk said during a press briefing Friday.

SpaceX — which this week topped off a massive funding round — was up against Jeff Bezos' aerospace company Blue Origin and a defense contractor in Huntsville, Alabama called Dynetics, according to the Post.

Last year, NASA awarded the three entities $967 million and a 10 month contract to kick off work on the lunar lander modules. It was expected to pick two of the companies to continue. Selecting SpaceX alone, and equipping the company with a near $3 billion contract, came as a surprise.

Musk's company has already begun testing prototypes of its Starship spacecraft in Texas, though recent flights have crash landed. According to the Washington Post, SpaceX will try out a new upgraded vehicle and plans to fly the spacecraft to orbit this year.

The contract falls under NASA's Human Landing Systems project, an arm of the Artemis program aiming to send astronauts to the moon by 2024. Initiated during president Trump's term, the program is being revised under President Biden partially to bring in more funding.

The first woman and first person of color will both step foot on the moon under the Artemis program, Jurczyk said.

"And we won't stop at the moon," he said. "The Artemis lunar landing is a key piece to our moon to Mars strategy."

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