WASHINGTON — NASA has awarded billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to build a spacecraft to fly astronauts to the moon, bypassing Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics Inc, the Washington Post reported https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/04/16/nasa-lunar-lander-contract-spacex on Friday.
The bid by Tesla Inc chief Musk beat one from Amazon.com Inc’s founder Jeff Bezos, who had partnered with Lockheed Martin Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp and Draper, the report added. Bezos also owns the Washington Post.
NASA has scheduled a press conference at 4 pm ET on Friday to announce the winner of the contract. SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The award is a setback for 57-year-old Bezos, a lifelong space enthusiast and one of the world’s richest individuals, who is now more focused on his space venture after having announced in February he would step down as Amazon CEO.
The contract was seen by Bezos and other executives as vital to Blue Origin establishing itself as a desired partner for NASA, and also putting the venture on the road to turning a profit, Reuters had reported in February.
Earlier this week, SpaceX announced it had raised about $1.16 billion in equity financing.
Musk has outlined an ambitious agenda for SpaceX and its reusable rockets, including landing humans on Mars. But in the near term, SpaceX’s main business has been launching satellites for Musk’s Starlink internet venture, and other satellites and space cargo.
Unlike the Apollo moon landing that happened more than 50 years ago, NASA is gearing up for a long-term presence on Earth’s satellite that the agency says will eventually enable humans to reach Mars, leaning heavily on private companies built around shared visions for space exploration. (Reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Chris Reese, Nick Zieminski and Ramakrishnan M.)