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Jeff Bezos said his space company Blue Origin will send the first woman to the moon’s surface.
The Amazon (AMZN) billionaire and world’s richest man announced his plans in a video post on Instagram.
“This (BE-7) is the engine that will take the first woman to the surface of the Moon,” he said on the social media app.
The engine, developed by Blue Origin, has had 1,245 seconds of test-fire time, he said
Bezos’ space firm is currently competing with Elon Musk's SpaceX and Leidos-owned Dynetics (LDOS) to win a contract to build NASA's next human lunar landing system to take humans to the moon by 2024 as part of its Artemis programme.
NASA will choose two of the three companies by March 2021 as it nears a decision over who will supply its first privately built lunar landers.
But there have been some worries about a lack of funding provided by the US Congress to the space agency. There is also some uncertainty whether and where a space exploration fits in the priorities of the incoming Joe Biden administration.
Blue Origin was founded by Bezos in 2000 to provide low-cost access to space.
NASA awarded a lunar lander development contract to Blue Origin’s team worth $579m (£431m) in April. It also gave SpaceX $135m to help develop its Starship system and Dynetics $253m.
Blue Origin is the prime contractor in a “national team” assembled in 2019 to help build its Blue Moon lander. The team includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper.
So far, twelve men have walked on the Moon, but no women.
NASA’s administrator, Jim Bridenstine said last year that the space agency will change that and that the first woman to complete a lunar landing will be drawn from the current astronaut corps.
“In the 1960s, young ladies didn’t have the opportunity to see themselves in that role,” Bridenstine said. “Today they do, and I think this is a very exciting opportunity.”
The first woman to have flown to space was Russia's Valentina Tereshkova, on the Vostok 6 in 1963, while in 2019, US astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch took part in the first all-female spacewalk.
Watch: First all-female spacewalk