Bezos, Musk feud over NASA’s plan to go with SpaceX for Artemis moon mission – CNET

NASA Gateway moon

Billionaires are fighting over the right to transport astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface of the moon.


NASA

Two of the richest men in history are trading blows over the privilege of delivering the first astronauts to the surface of the moon since the end of NASA’s Apollo program in the 1970s.

Blue Origin, the space company started by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, filed a formal protest Monday of NASA’s decision to go with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and its Starship spacecraft for the agency’s initial trips to the lunar surface under its Artemis program.

NASA shocked much of the space industry when it selected SpaceX as the sole provider for the Human Landing System for Artemis, the follow-up to Apollo. The space agency was expected to select two of the three companies that submitted final bids to then create competing lander designs. In selecting just SpaceX over competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics, NASA said it simply hadn’t been appropriated sufficient funding by Congress to make more than one selection.

Blue Origin’s protest was filed with the US Government Accountability Office by the law firm Barnes and Thornburg of Washington, DC. A partially redacted version of the lengthy document was posted online by NASA Watch. It argues that NASA’s evaluation process unfairly favored SpaceX over Blue Origin in a number of ways, particularly that SpaceX’s low bid in terms of cost was improperly weighted in making the final decision.

“The improper and flawed evaluation of Blue Origin’s and SpaceX’s proposals submitted against outdated funding tainted the selection decision and did not provide offerors with an even playing field and prejudiced Blue Origin, as well as other competitors,” the document concludes.

NASA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

An email to the SpaceX media team didn’t immediately receive a response, but founder Elon Musk did offer up a comment of sorts on Twitter in the form of a lewd joke.

This isn’t the first time Blue Origin has been upset by the US government choosing SpaceX instead. The company was on the losing end of the bidding process for a lucrative Space Force contract last year. The company would later say the decision led to a delay of the debut of its New Glenn rocket, designed to compete with Starship.

Bezos unveiled Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lunar lander concept at a big media event in 2019, but the development of the company’s spacecraft has lagged behind SpaceX in recent years.

As Blue Origin works toward its first flight of humans to the edge of space aboard its smaller New Shepard vehicle, SpaceX has just completed its third mission carrying astronauts to the International Space Station.

Meanwhile, Musk says the next test flight of a Starship prototype could take place later this week.

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