NASA goes private for 1st astronaut lunar landers in decades

Jeff Bezos speaks in front of a model of Blue Origin's Blue Moon lunar lander, Thursday, May 9, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA is turning to private industry for the first lunar landers for astronauts in a half-century.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Thursday the three companies that will develop and build lunar landers, with the goal of returning astronauts to the moon by 2024, and ultimately on to Mars. The companies are SpaceX, led by Elon Musk; Blue Origin, founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos; and Dynetics, an Alabama subsidiary of Leidos. The combined contracts total nearly $1 billion.

NASA will rely on its own Orion capsules and Space Launch System megarockets — still under development — to launch astronauts to the moon.

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