The “Blue Moon” landing system will allow astronauts to carry out exploration activities on the Moon’s South Pole for Artemis V mission
Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, announced that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has selected Kent-based Blue Origin to develop the human landing system for NASA’s Artemis V mission to the Moon.
“There’s a new space race going on and we’re proud that Washington companies are going to help us win it by putting more Americans on the Moon and placing us on stronger footing to get to Mars,” Senator Cantwell said. “Two years ago, the Senate, the NASA Administrator, safety experts and a group of retired astronauts all knew the importance of maintaining competition in the Artemis program. Today’s decision finally applies a best practice developed over many space programs: increasing competition and having a backup plan makes our astronauts safer and protects the taxpayer.”
On the Artemis V mission, four astronauts will be launched into lunar orbit aboard the Orion Spacecraft using the NASA Space Launch System (SLS). Two astronauts will then transfer to the human landing system, to be developed by Blue Origin, for a weeklong trip to the Moon’s South Pole region to conduct science and exploration activities.
According to NASA, adding another human landing system partner to NASA’s Artemis program will increase competition, reduce costs to taxpayers, support a regular cadence of lunar landings, further invest in the lunar economy and help NASA achieve its goals on and around the Moon in preparation for future astronaut missions to Mars.
The Blue Origin led National Team (with Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Draper, Astrobotic and Honeybee Robotics as partners) estimates that this contract directly supports more than 3,000 jobs nationwide including more than 1,000 jobs in Washington state. It provides more than $7 billion in investment across the nation with Blue Origin providing significant savings to the government by investing over 50% of the cost share. This investment includes more than $700 million with small businesses and will support the diverse and robust aerospace supply chain required to maintain US leadership in space. To date, Blue Origin has spent more than $1 billion with companies in Washington state across all its programs and this contract will significantly increase the company’s work with Washington suppliers.
The following nine companies are official partners and suppliers to the Blue Origin National Team:
- Baker Manufacturing Inc, Tacoma, Wash.
- Electroimpact Inc, Mukilteo, Wash.
- Janicki Industries Inc, Sedro Woolley, Wash.
- Machine & Fabrication Ind LLC, Kent, Wash.
- Machine Repair & Design Inc, Sumner, Wash.
- Machinists Inc, Seattle, Wash.
- McNeeley Mfg, Auburn, Wash.
- Motion Industries, Tukwila, Wash.
- Specialty Metals Corporation, Kent, Wash.
42 Washington companies are providing services or components for the Artemis missions to return to the Moon, including General Dynamics in Bothell, Aerojet Rocketdyne in Redmond, HI REL Laboratories in Spokane and Toray Composite Materials in Tacoma.
In November 2019, Sen. Cantwell co-sponsored the bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2020, which aimed to recognize the Artemis missions in U.S. law for the first time. To provide certainty and stability for the program, language authorizing the Artemis program and requiring NASA to establish stringent oversight requirements was eventually incorporated into the CHIPS and Science Act, which Sen. Cantwell spearheaded through Congress. The CHIPS and Science Act was signed into law on August 9, 2022.
Sen. Cantwell has been a tireless supporter of the Artemis program. In 2021, one year before successful passage of the CHIPS and Science Act, Sen. Cantwell urged her colleagues on the Senate floor to support the investments required by NASA to ensure the proper redundancy needed for the human landing system:
“The American taxpayers invest too much in these space programs not to apply these lessons about the importance of resiliency and redundancy. The same lesson should be applied to the programs developed here as we approach this new project to land people back on the Moon,” Sen. Cantwell said on the Senate floor. “These are complex systems with multiple components that need to work together to the get astronauts down to the lunar surface and back safely. Building in resiliency and redundancy increases NASA’s chances of successfully landing humans on the Moon and bringing them home safely.”