The NASA logo is seen at Kennedy Space Center ahead of the NASA/SpaceX launch of a commercial crew mission to the International Space Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, US, April 16, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON – NASA was poised Friday to announce the company it will entrust with putting the next American astronauts on the Moon, with Elon Musk’s SpaceX heavily favored to win the bid.

The US space agency will be holding a press conference at 4:00 pm Eastern Time (2000 GMT) where it will declare the winner of a contract to build the human lander system for the Artemis program.

The Washington Post reported SpaceX had beat out Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics to be the sole provider for the system, a break from the past when NASA has chosen multiple companies in case one fails.

Bezos also owns the Post, which said it had learned the News via a NASA document.

The Post reported the value of the contract was $2.9 billion.

The contract would represent the latest major victory for SpaceX and underscore its position as NASA’s most trusted private sector partner.

Last year, Musk’s company became the first to successfully send a crew to the International Space Station, restoring American capacity to accomplish the feat for the first time since the Shuttle program ended.

For its Moon lander bid, SpaceX put forward its reusable Starship spacecraft, which is designed to carry large crews and cargo for deep space voyages, and land upright both on Earth and other celestial bodies.

Prototypes of the vessel are currently being put through their paces at the company’s south Texas facility, though all four versions that have attempted test flights have exploded.

Eventually, SpaceX plans to combine the Starship spaceship with a Super Heavy rocket, which will stand 394 feet (120 meters) tall and be the most powerful launch vehicle ever deployed.

Humanity last stepped foot on the Moon in 1972 during the Apollo program.

NASA wants to go back and establish a sustainable presence, complete with a lunar space station, in order to test new technologies that will pave the way for a crewed mission to Mars.

In 2019, then vice president Mike Pence challenged NASA to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024, but it’s likely that timeline will be relaxed under President Joe Biden.

AFP