Blue Origin has been busy lately. They launched their founder, Jeff Bezos, into space and put a bid in on NASA’s new Lunar Lander project. While SpaceX won that contract back in April, Blue Origin has continued to fight for their right to supply the space agency with an alternative lander. And recently, their not-quite-an-astronaut chief had added another fuel to the fire by offering to take $2 billion off the price tag of a Blue Origin lander.
Being the richest person in the world certainly helps when offering discounts to the federal government. But Blue Origin’s frustration with NASA’s tender process goes far beyond money. Typically the agency would have selected two companies to supply a lander, in order to ensure there would be a backup in case one project failed, and also to encourage competition between the two competing entities.
In fact, there were three companies originally selected as part of an assessment program – SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Dynetics, another aerospace contractor. NASA has not justified publicly why it only selected SpaceX to continue the development of the lander, causing outrage from both Dynetics and Blue Origin.
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Bezos attempted to ameliorate one potential reason for not supporting multiple contractors in an open letter to NASA. According to the letter “[Blue Origin] stand[s] ready to help NASA moderate its technical risks and solve its budgetary constraints and put the Artemis Program back on a more competitive, credible, and sustainable path.”
What is not clear so far is whether or not this open letter will have any impact at all on NASA’s final decision. Maybe the recent proof that the company is able to get to almost-space would increase confidence in its ability to complete Artemis’ mission objective. Or maybe it will feel it has almost nothing to lose by supporting a company that is will to offer a “permanent waiver” of a large chunk of the development cost of the project. Or maybe it will be forced to pressure from the Senate, which recently passed a $10 billion spending bill for the Artemis human lander system.
Whatever the outcome, the best the American people, and the world, can hope for is a successful completion of the mission. Whichever company actually fulfills the space agency’s dreams of a return to the moon will earn well deserved praise for doing so. There should also be enough praise to go around if there happens to be two of them.
Phys.org – Bezos offers NASA a $2 billion discount for Blue Origin Moon lander
The Verge – Jeff Bezos offers NASA $2 billion to pick Blue Origin’s lunar lander in last-minute plea
Ars Technica – Bezos says he is now willing to invest in a Moon lander—here’s why
UT – The Blue Origins Founder Wants to Get to the Moon by 2024
The famous “Earthrise” picture taken by Apollo astronauts on the moon.
Credit – NASA