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Jeff Bezos: Blue Origin space company will take first woman to the moon

Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin will take the first woman to the moon, the billionaire said as Nasa nears a decision over who will supply its first privately built lunar landers, meant to be capable of sending astronauts to the moon by 2024.

“This is the engine that will take the first woman to the surface of the moon,” Bezos said in a post on Instagram with a video of a BE-7 engine test this week at Nasa Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Twelve men have walked on the Moon, but no women. Nasa aims to change that, administrator Jim Bridenstine saying last year the first woman to complete a lunar landing will be drawn from the current astronaut corps.

“In the 1960s, young ladies didn’t have the opportunity to see themselves in that role,” Bridenstine said. “Today they do, and I think this is a very exciting opportunity.”

The Blue Origin engine, which has been in development for years, has tallied 1,245 seconds of test-fire time. It is meant to power the company’s National Team Human Landing System lunar lander.

Blue Origin is the prime contractor in a “national team” assembled in 2019 to help build its Blue Moon lander. The team includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper.

Bezos’s company has vied for lucrative government contracts. In the race to build Nasa’s system to ferry humans to the moon in the next decade, it is competing with rival billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Dynetics, owned by Leidos Holdings.

In April, Nasa awarded the Blue Origin team a lunar lander development contract worth $579m. SpaceX received $135m to help develop its Starship system. Dynetics received $253m.

Nasa has said it will pick two companies “in early March” 2021, to continue building lander prototypes for crewed missions beginning in 2024.

Slim funds for the landing systems made available to Nasa by Congress, as well as uncertainty over the incoming Biden administration’s views on space exploration, have threatened to delay the decision.

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