SpaceX wins bid for lunar lander to put first woman on moon

SpaceX's SN15 Starship prototype sits on a launch pad, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Boca Chica, Texas. (Miguel Roberts/The Bro
SpaceX's SN15 Starship prototype sits on a launch pad, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Boca Chica, Texas. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

Nasa has chosen SpaceX to build the lunar lander that will eventually put the first woman and person of colour on the moon.

The announcement came a few hours after SpaceX’s most international crew of astronauts yet arrived in Florida for a lift-off next week.

Elon Musk’s Starship — the futuristic, shiny steel rocketship that’s been launching and exploding in Texas — beat out landers proposed by Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Dynetics, a subsidiary of Leidos, for the contract worth 2.89 billion dollars (£2.1 billion).

“We won’t stop at the moon,” said Nasa’s acting administrator Steve Jurczyk, adding that Mars is the ultimate goal.

Nasa declined to provide a target launch date for the moon-landing Artemis mission, saying a review is underway.

The Trump administration had set a 2024 deadline, but on Friday Nasa officials called it a goal.

“We’ll do it when it’s safe,” said Kathy Lueders, who leads Nasa’s human space exploration office.

She indicated Nasa and SpaceX are shooting for later this decade.

The astronauts will fly to the moon on the Nasa-launched Orion capsule, then transfer to Starship in lunar orbit for the ride down to the surface and back.

Nasa has said at least one of the first moonwalkers since 1972 would be the first woman on the moon, while another goal of the programme is to send a person of colour to the lunar surface.

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