At the International Astronautical Congress in Washington, D.C. today, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos announced a new “national team” that will join forces in order to help return humans to the Moon via NASA’s Artemis program. They’ll focus on developing the Human Landing System that will be used to achieve this goal.
Blue Origin will serve as lead contractor for this new industry collaboration, which will also include Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. The partnership will serve to pursue NASA’s stated mission of getting the first American woman and next American man to the surface of the Moon by 2024.
Each partner in this new alliance will take on specific roles pertaining to helping NASA achieve its goal. Blue Origin is going to be acting as the primary contractor and lead the program management of the partner involvement, as well as take on systems engineering, and responsibilities for safety and mission assurance. They’ll also provide the descent element of the overall the human landing system, which will consist of the Blue Moon lander and the BE-7 engine that will provide its propulsion.
Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin will be developing the ‘Ascent Element’ vehicle and Northrop Grumman is building the ‘Transfer Element’ to get the whole landing element Blue Origin is providing in place towards the Moon. Longtime space industry non-profit Draper will lead the descent guidance efforts and produce flight avionics.
“Northrop Grumman built the original lander that now delivers cargo to ISS,” Bezos said during an award ceremony at the IAC where he made the announcement. “Lockheed Martin is, as far as I know, the only company that actually lands on the surface of Mars. They are unbelievably competent in space. They are experts in life support systems […] and Draper is doing the guidance and control – an incredibly complex job for landing on the Moon, especially when you want to do a precision landing. And of course they did that for the original Apollo Program way back then, but today it will be done in a completely new way.”
nI wonu2019t attempt a more detailed review of AI Nowu2019s conference here; the organization will put out an annual report summarizing and expanding on it later this year; and if youu2019re intrigued by this piece, get on their mailing list and go next year.n
Below is my conversation with Dubal, where we discuss why the AI Now Institute is different from so many other tech ethics initiatives and how a scholar of taxis became a must-read name in tech. Our conversation ends with the story of one well-off white male software engineer who experienced surprising failure, only to realize his own disillusionment helped him connect to a much greater purpose than heu2019d ever envisioned.n
Epstein: Letu2019s start by talking about the AI Now Symposium. What does it mean for you to be here as one of the featured speakers?n
Dubal: It’s so awesome for a center like this to to say that what Uber drivers are doing to organize to better their conditions is actually related to tech. For the last half decade at least, I’ve been doing what is considered tech work, but very much at the periphery. Because we weren’t explicitly doing computer science-related work, I think people didn’t think of the research people like me do as being at all [related to tech]… it was u201cjustu201d labor. It wasnu2019t tech, even though it is on [workers] backs that the whole tech industry exists. So it’s powerful to be included in this conversation.n
And for this particular event, they’ve done such a good job of [inviting speakers] whose research is thought of as on the periphery, but should be at the center in terms of what is really important from an ethics perspective. Ruha Benjamin [a Professor of African American Studies at Princeton and founder of Princetonu2019s JustData Lab]’s work is amazing and then the two people that I’m on the panel with, Abdi Muse [Executive Director of the Awood Center in Minneapolis, a community organization focused on advocating for and educating Minnesotau2019s growing East African communities about their labor rights], organizes warehouse workers in Minnesota, who are the reason Amazon can facilitate the transcontinental flow of goods in the way that they do.n