Blue Origin and Jeff Bezos' challenge of SpaceX's moon mission contract from NASA has been officially denied.
The denial was handed down by the US Government Accountability Office, which said that NASA didn't violate any law when they decided to award the contract for the next Lunar lander to one company, reports CNBC. SpaceX was awarded the $2.9 billion contract early this year in a relatively surprise announcement, which prompted Blue Origin to contest the decision.
Blue Origin was among the three different companies vying to get the contract. The other one was Dynetics. But perhaps what made Bezos decide to contest the awarding was that there were initially two contracts that the three space exploration companies were vying for.
Still, the GAO didn't seem to find any irregularity in NASA's decision to give the moon mission contract to Elon Musk and SpaceX. According to a statement by managing associate general counsel Kenneth Patton, all three proposals were deemed reasonable and without any violation of any existing procurement law.
Furthermore, the GAO said that NASA reserved the right to either make multiple contract awards, a single one, or none at all, reports The Verge. This is more than enough explanation as to why the agency backpedaled on its initial announcement to award two contracts.
And of course, in typical Elon Musk fashion, the SpaceX CEO responded to the junking of Blue Origin's contest with a tweet:
GAO 💪— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 30, 2021
Blue Origin Wasn't the Only One
Since it also lost its bid for the moon contract, Dynetics also initially contested NASA's decision alongside Blue Origin.
Both companies, especially Bezos', claimed the decision was flawed, with Blue Origin even saying in a statement that the agency "moved the goalposts at the last minute." In other words, they were accusing the latter of cheating on the contract, though the GAO didn't exactly see it this way.
Originally, Blue Origin was going to split the entire contract with the two other companies. Bezos' firm will get $579 million, Dynetics gets the next biggest share at $253 million, and Musk's will get the smallest cut of the pie at $153 million. Also, it's been revealed that Blue Origin's first proposal for the lunar lander contract was double that of SpaceX's at almost $6 billion, which likely added more fuel to the fire.
Bezos Not Giving Up
Given that this is more or less a multi-billionaire space race, Blue Origin is still laying down its chips on the table. For the upcoming moon mission, the company offered NASA $2 billion "to cover any financial shortcomings from SpaceX." This was likely an attempt to fully secure the contract and give Blue Origin a major cut of the pie, which is one of Jeff Bezos' plans all along.
The lunar mission, called Artemis, is due for a 2024 launch. As a fully manned mission, it will be the first time in almost 50 years that humans will return to the moon. SpaceX's job is to build the lunar lander craft that will help the astronauts touch down on the surface.
But considering how Musk's company has had considerably more success at manned missions than Blue Origin (the company's first successful manned launch was only a few weeks ago), then perhaps NASA was right to give the contract to SpaceX.
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Written by RJ Pierce