NASA has chosen Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build a lander that will send humans to the Moon in the next decade.
On Friday the space agency announced Musk had fought off rival tech billionaire Jeff Bezos’ to land the $2.89bn contract.
The lander is based on SpaceX’s Starship craft, which is being tested at a site in southern Texas.
NASA said the vehicle will carry the next man and first woman to the lunar surface under its Artemis programme and also plans to land the first person of colour on the Moon.
Musk has been working on the Starship design for years and is a critical component of his long-term plans for settling humans on Mars.
“With this award, NASA and our partners will complete the first crewed demonstration mission to the surface of the Moon in the 21st century as the agency takes a step forward for women’s equality and long-term deep space exploration,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator for Human Explorations and Operations Mission Directorate said.
“This critical step puts humanity on a path to sustainable lunar exploration and keeps our eyes on missions farther into the solar system, including Mars.”
The decision to pick SpaceX breaks with usual practice to pick two projects reflecting the financial strain the agency is operating under. Additionally the Artemis programme had targeted a trip in 2024 but a lack of funding has made that near-on impossible.