Spacex; Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images
  • NASA is awarding SpaceX an exclusive contract to land humans on the moon, The Washington Post reported.
  • The company's Starship spaceship will carry out NASA's Artemis mission.
  • Musk's company beat out Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin for the contract, the Post reported.
  • See more stories on Business Insider SA's home page.

NASA has picked SpaceX to land its next astronauts on the moon, according to The Washington Post's Christian Davenport.

NASA is set to make an official announcement about the lunar-landing contract later on Friday, but The Post obtained the selection document in advance.

Clinching the contact means SpaceX's Starship spaceship will fly astronauts to the moon for NASA's Artemis program, which seeks to put boots on the lunar surface by 2024.

The SN10 Starship prototypes soars above Boca Chica, Texas, March 3, 2021.
SpaceX

The company beat out two competitors for the contract, Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin and US defense contractor, Dynetics. Davenport added on Twitter that the $2.9 billion SpaceX bid was much lower than the competitors' bids.

Securing the lunar landing contract puts SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk ahead of Bezos in the billionaire space race. NASA was expected to choose two out of the three finalists to make the landing system, but settled on just SpaceX, according to The Post.

On Friday, Ars Technica's senior space editor, Eric Berger, wrote on Twitter that awarding the contract solely to SpaceX "is going to be hugely unpopular in Congress," and said that "one big reason" for the sole contract was due to "limited Congressional funding."

Starship is undergoing a spectacular testing process

SpaceX has been launching prototypes of the Starship spaceship from its rocket-testing facilities in Boca Chica, Texas. Four prototypes have flown to high altitudes and exploded or fallen apart upon their return to Earth. The prototypes have successfully demonstrated the vehicle's ability to fly, then control its belly-flop fall back to Earth using four wing flaps.

The company hopes to nail the landing and get Starship to orbit by the end of the year. That timeline is ambitious, especially since the company will likely have to conduct an environmental review in order to get an orbital-launch license from the US Federal Aviation Administration.

Eventually, a roughly 23-story booster called Super Heavy would heave the Starship spaceship toward orbit. Musk has plans for Starship-Super Heavy beyond the moon. Eventually, has said, he plans to build 1,000 Starships in order to carry people and cargo to Mars and establish a settlement there.

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