An offer of covering of up to $2 billion in costs for NASA was made by Amazon.com’s founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos after his recent trip to space in the spaceship developed by his own space exploration company Blue Origin. The offer was made with the condition of NASA offering a contract to make a spacecraft designed to land astronauts back on the moon to Blue Origin.
A $2.9 billion contract for building a spacecraft to bring astronauts to the lunar surface as early as 2024, was awarded by NASA in April to rival billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX while rejecting competitive bids from Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics.
Blue Origin had partnered with Lockheed Martin Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp and Draper in the bid.
In a contract decision that senior NASA official Kathy Lueders called “what’s the best value to the government”, the shortage of funds for the US space agency, the proven record of orbital missions of SpacxeX and other factors were cited as the reasons for awarding the contract to Musk’s SpaceX and rejecting other bids.
Payments to be made by the government against the contract for the current fiscal year and in the years after that would be waived by Blue Origin got a for a total of up to $2 billion, Bezo’s company said in a letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. Blue Origin will also be paying for an orbital mission to vet its technology. In exchange of the waiver, Bezos said, Blue Origin demanded that NASA provide a a firm, fixed-priced contract while also covering for any system development cost overruns.
“NASA veered from its original dual-source acquisition strategy due to perceived near-term budgetary issues, and this offer removes that obstacle,” Bezos wrote.
“Without competition, NASA’s short-term and long-term lunar ambitions will be delayed, will ultimately cost more, and won’t serve the national interest,” Bezos added.
While stating that NASA was aware of the letter sent by Bezos, a NASA spokesperson declined to expand on the issue any further, while also citing the protest Blue Origin filed with the US Government Accountability Office accusing the agency of giving SpaceX an unfair advantage by allowing it to revise its pricing.
It is expected that the GAO would take a decision in this regards by early August, even though industry sources claimed that even Blue Origin thinks that a reversal of the decision already taken by NASA on the contract is not likely/
There was no comment on the issue from SpaceX.
NASA had invited proposals from companies for making a spacecraft that would enable the agency to send astronauts to the lunar surface, under its Artemis program, and then return them back to the Earth which will be a first since 1972.
Blue Origin’s lunar lander is called “Blue Moon.”
(Adapted from NBCNews.com)