NASA on Friday tapped SpaceX to help bring humans back to the moon later this decade as part of its Artemis Program.
The agency announced Friday that it will award Elon Musk's company a $2.89 billion contract for the development of its Starship vehicle, an uncrewed flight test to the moon, and, finally, a crewed mission that will land on the lunar surface. SpaceX beat out Dynetics and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin for the opportunity, thanks in large part to its affordability. SpaceX's bid cost about half of Dynetics' and a quarter of Blue Origin's, Ars Technica reports. So while Starship has plenty of innovative features that made it an enticing candidate, "budget appears to have been the biggest factor" since NASA has struggled to secure funding from Congress for the lunar landing.
Ars Technica suggests NASA likely isn't done, however, explaining that "a sole-source award to SpaceX for the Human Landing System will certainly not be particularly popular in Congress, where traditional space companies such as Lockheed Martin and newer entrants like Blue Origin have more established lobbying power." In other words, the move "sends a clear message from NASA and the White House" — which has endorsed the Artemis Program and its goals — "to budget writers in the House and Senate." Read more at Ars Technica.