Jeff Bezos’ aerospace manufacturer Blue Origin is suing the United States government after losing out on $2.9 billion lunar lander contract. NASA, the independent agency of the U.S. government responsible for all things related to space exploration, awarded the contract to Blue Origin’s competitor, Elon Musks’ company SpaceX.
Blue Origin’s main contention is that NASA was required to have more than one provider of lunar landers. Blue Origin maintains that there are “fundamental issues” with NASA’s decision to rely on a single provider, that provider being SpaceX.
The company said that the lawsuit it filed in US Court of Federal Claims last week was “an attempt to remedy the flaws in the acquisition process found in NASA’s Human Landing System.” Blue Origin feels that “the issues identified in this procurement and its outcomes must be addressed to restore fairness, create competition, and ensure a safe return to the Moon for America.”
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has supported NASA’s decision to work with only one lunar provider. NASA said that “GAO’s decision will allow NASA and SpaceX to establish a timeline for the first crewed landing on the Moon in more than 50 years.” Both NASA and SpaceX have yet to comment on Blue Origin’s lawsuit.
Blue Origin loses the chance to work on NASA’s Artemis program
NASA’s deal with SpaceX is part of their larger initiative to send a team of astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972. The mission is part of the agency’s Artemis program, an expansive plan to explore the moon with more depth than ever before. Artemis’ timeline seeks to land on the moon by 2024, so SpaceX would need its lunar landing ready in a relatively short timeframe.
“Under the Artemis program, humanity will explore regions of the Moon never visited before, uniting people around the unknown, the never seen, and the once impossible. We will return to the Moon robotically beginning next year, send astronauts to the surface within four years, and build a longterm presence on the Moon by the end of the decade.” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in his foreward to NASA’s Artemis plan.
NASA views the goals set in the Artemis program as stepping stones towards the larger milestone of exploring Mars, as they explain in the plan’s introduction:
“NASA’s Artemis program will lead humanity forward to the Moon and prepare us for the next giant leap, the exploration of Mars. […] Sending human explorers 250,000 miles to the Moon, then 140 million miles to Mars, requires a bold vision, effective program management, funding for modern systems development and mission operations, and support from all corners of our great nation as well as our partners across the globe.”