The billionaire space race is hotting up after Blue Origin, owned by Amazon-founder Jeff Bezos, has been selected by NASA to launch a new mission to Mars.
NASA’s Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers mission, also known as ESCAPADE, consists of twin probes that will send back vital information about how the Red Planet’s magnetosphere interacts with the solar wind.
ESCAPADE’s findings will be important for long-stay astronaut, and eventually space colonists, who will need to know about the risks of radiation exposure on the planet’s surface.
READ MORE: Bezos and Musk: The Billionaire Space Race to build a permanent off-world colony
So far NASA hasn’t used Bezos’s company for any of its launches. In fact, the Blue Origin spacecraft has yet to reach true Earth orbit – something the Amazon founder’s great rival Elon Musk never tires of pointing out.
There’s been plenty of bad blood in the past between NASA and Blue Origin.
Blue Origin was one of five companies that were awarded contracts to develop Moon lander concepts for NASA’s Artemis 3 mission.
When the final $2.9 billion contract went to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Bezos decides to sue NASA – leading to a humiliating courtroom defeat.
Jeff Bezos sues NASA over Elon Musk's Moon lander as billionaire space war escalates
At the time, Blue Origin spokesperson said the legal battle “highlighted the important safety issues with the Human Landing System procurement process that must still be addressed.”
Bezos did, however, philosophically add on Twitter: “Not the decision we wanted, but we respect the court’s judgment, and wish full success for NASA and SpaceX on the contract.”
This new NASA contract for Blue Origin represents a new start between the two organisations – although it represents a sizeable risk on NASA’s part.
Amazon boss Jeff Bezos blasting into space next month – and you can join him for £2m
Blue Origin’s reusable New Glenn launch vehicle remains untried, with its 2020 first launch delayed until at least this summer.
It can reportedly be used for 25 launches – against the SpaceX Starship which promises " total reusability.".
If the heavy-lift rocket’s first test flight should be delayed again – or meet with some unexpected malfunction – it could snatch this win back away from Bezos, and inevitably to another run of triumphant tweets from Elon Musk.
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