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NASA has selected SpaceX’s Starship to take astronauts to the moon

The news: NASA has awarded a $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX to take astronauts to the moon in its reusable Starship spacecraft. The plan is for it to launch separately and station itself in lunar orbit until NASA astronauts arrive aboard the agency’s Orion crew capsule. Starship will simply ferry astronauts to the moon’s surface and back. It’s part of Artemis, the US lunar exploration program aiming to return to the moon in 2024 (a target it’s likely to miss.)

A surprise: Last year, NASA awarded three different groups contracts to develop their own lunar landers: SpaceX, defense company Dynetics, and a four-company team led by Blue Origin. SpaceX didn’t just receive the least amount of money—its proposal also earned the worst technical and management ratings. Since then, SpaceX has gone through a number of different flight tests of several full-scale Starship prototypes.

What this means: For SpaceX’s rivals, it’s a devastating blow—especially to Blue Origin, which arguably had the most well-developed proposals. For NASA, the biggest implication is that SpaceX’s vehicles will only continue to play a bigger role for Artemis. Read the full story.

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