The US-based space agency NASA has delayed the awarding contracts of a key element of the Artemis program. It has silently delayed the plan to award two lunar lander contracts. According to NASA, the two high-profile crewed contracts have been delayed from February to April. The agency wants to evaluate the proposals submitted by bidders. The delay will give more time to the agency for the purpose. The objective behind the delay is to protect the seamless transition from the development phase. However, NASA may not need two months for evaluating the proposals. It means that the agency may award the lander contracts before April 30.
NASA said that the delay will also give time to the bidders to work on the design and develop systems to land humans on Moon. Earlier in 2019, three companies had won a combined USD 967 million from NASA in seed funding. NASA provided funds to develop concepts for a system that will land humans on the lunar surface. The three companies that are currently in the race to bag NASA contracts are SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Dynetics. Elon Musk owns SpaceX. Jeff Bezos and Leidos own Blue Origin and Dynetics, respectively. All three are American companies. It is NASA’s first effort to spend funds since the Apollo program on developing landers for moon-bound astronauts.
The delay is also attributed to the Presidential transition in the country. The new President Joe Biden is yet to release any space policy. This has also triggered talks of uncertainty over NASA’s Artemis program. According to NASA, it had last week conveyed to the three firms about an extension to award the contracts. As per the timeline decided by the Trump administration, NASA was supposed to pick two bidders by late February. This selection means NASA has approved two systems that will take humans to the moon. Notably, NASA under the Artemis program will launch three spacecraft. The third spacecraft will take the first woman and the next man to Moon. It will be launched in 2024.