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Jeff Bezos is suing NASA over its deal with Elon Musk’s SpaceX

By Alma Fabiani

Aug 17, 2021

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Former Amazon CEO and not-so astronaut Jeff Bezos would rather trouble the US space agency with legal battles than see another moon landing involving one of his rivals. This time, we’re talking about his tech bro entrepreneur Elon Musk. According to the BBC, the row stems from a decision in April to hand the deal to one company—not two as initially expected—because of a funding shortfall.

At the time of the award, NASA’s human exploration chief, Kathy Lueders, admitted that the space agency’s current budget precluded it from selecting two companies. That was after Congress granted it only $850 million out of the $3.3 billion it had requested for the project.

NASA also cited the proven record of orbital missions by Elon Musk’s SpaceX firm as a factor, resulting in the award. Cost is also thought to have played a role: SpaceX’s bid was the lowest-priced by some distance.

Deeply wounded by this ‘injustice’, Bezos then penned a ridiculously puerile open letter to NASA essentially calling out its decision while simultaneously offering to ostensibly bribe the judges with $2.9 billion (£2.1 billion) in subsidies, among other promises.

Shortly after this, Bezos filed a complaint with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), delaying the project while the organisation adjudicated the matter. Following the GAO’s recent denial of Bezos’ issues, he and Blue Origin have moved for federal courts to intercede on grounds of “NASA’s unlawful and improper evaluation of proposals submitted under the HLS Option A BAA.”

In a court filing on Friday 13 August, Blue Origin said it continued to believe that two providers were needed to build the landing system, which will carry astronauts down to the Moon’s surface as early as 2024. “We firmly believe 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,” Blue Origin added.

NASA must now file a response to the legal action by 12 October. Meanwhile, SpaceX is yet to comment on the lawsuit. Under its Artemis programme, NASA hopes to return humans to the moon for the first time since 1972.

In April, Lueders said, “This critical step puts humanity on a path to sustainable lunar exploration and keeps our eyes on missions farther into the solar system, including Mars.” Yes, but now Bezos is in the way.