Bezos' Blue Origin wins NASA contract for lunar lander

STORY: “This is Blue Moon”

The battle of the billionaires in space is headed to the moon.

Friday NASA awarded a contract to a team led Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ spaceflight firm Blue Origin to build a lunar landing craft that will take astronauts to and from the Moon's surface.

Two years ago, the U.S. space agency awarded a contract to Tesla founder Elon Musk’s SpaceX for the same thing.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson explained why the agency is now working with both firms:

"We want more competition. We want two landers. And that's better, and it means that you have reliability, you have backups. It benefits NASA, it benefits the American people."

SpaceX received $3 billion to develop its lander which aims to return astronauts to the Moon for the first time since the final Apollo mission in 1972.

The initial missions using SpaceX's Starship system are slated for later this decade.

Blue Origin initially lost out to SpaceX, and unsuccessfully fought to overturn NASA's decision, first through a watchdog agency and then in court.

Now it’s back in the plans for moon landings after winning a contract valued at roughly $3.4 billion, NASA said with the company privately contributing "well north" of that amount, according to Blue Origin's lunar lander head John Couluris.

"Our endeavors to make human permanence on the moon is been part of our core beliefs for some time. So we want to establish permanence on the moon, and we want to ensure that we have consistent access to the moon. So with that in mind, Blue Origin itself is contributing over 50% of the total effort to get to not only this mission but to ensure permanence."

Blue Origin is working with Lockheed Martin, Boeing and others on its moon lander which is expected to ferry two astronauts to the surface in 2029.

NASA said it hopes the missions will help it prepare for even farther trips, potentially to Mars.