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Musk beats Bezos over $2.9 bln NASA contract

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Elon Musk beat out Jeff Bezos in the battle of the billionaires for a big NASA contract. The U.S. space agency awarded Musk’s SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to build a lunar lander.

SpaceX bid alone whereas Bezos’ Blue Origin had teamed up with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Defense contractor Dynetics had also put in a bid.

NASA’s lander is expected to carry two American astronauts to the moon’s surface as early as 2024.

Unlike the Apollo missions from 1969 to 1972, NASA is gearing up for a longer-term lunar presence that could lead to missions to Mars.

The agency aims to create regular service to the moon. It’ll hold a separate competition for that contract.

NASA’s moon lander decision is a setback for Bezos. He is now more focused on his space venture after announcing he’ll step down as Amazon CEO.

The contract was seen by Bezos and other executives as vital to Blue Origin establishing itself as a desired partner for NASA, and also putting the venture on the road to turning a profit.