Elon Musk’s SpaceX Beats Out Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to Nab NASA Moon Contract

SpaceX rocket launch
SpaceX / Flickr.com

Unlike the original Space Race, which pitted two global superpowers against each other in a battle for military and aeronautic supremacy, the modern version pits mega-billionaires against each other in a battle for money and contracts. On Friday, Elon Musk scored a big win in that race.

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Musk’s SpaceX beat out Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin in landing a NASA contract to build spacecraft designed to land astronauts on the moon for the first time since the last Apollo mission nearly 50 years ago. As The Washington Post reported, the $2.9 billion contract for the “human landing system” puts SpaceX among the nation’s elite aerospace companies.

The win over Blue Origin shocked many industry observers — in part because of that company’s partnerships with aerospace giants Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. SpaceX also beat out Dynetics, a defense contractor based in Huntsville, Ala.

Although SpaceX, Blue Origin and Dynetics were all originally chosen for the first phase of the contract, NASA reportedly chose SpaceX to maintain a competitive environment.

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The contract is part of NASA’s Artemis program to send astronauts back to the moon. According to a NASA press release, the agency selected SpaceX to continue development of the first commercial human lander that will carry the next two American astronauts to the lunar surface — at least one of whom will be the first woman to make such a trip.

The moon program comes during a busy time for NASA. In February, its Perseverance rover landed on Mars’ Jezero Crater as part of the Mars 2020 mission. And on Monday, a small robotic helicopter named Ingenuity lifted off from the surface of Mars, making it the first aircraft of its kind to achieve flight in another world.

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SpaceX was founded by Musk in 2002 with the goal of flying humans to Mars. In the years since, the company has disrupted the space industry and also drawn plenty of investment capital.

The SpaceNews industry website reported on Friday that SpaceX added more than $300 million in a fundraising round announced earlier this year to support work on its Starship launch system and Starlink satellite constellation. SpaceX has now raised $1.164 billion, SpaceNews said.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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