After his recent trip to space, Jeff Bezos, a billionaire businessman, offered to pay up to $2Billion in NASA costs to his company Blue Origin if the U.S. space Agency awards him a contract to build a spacecraft that will land astronauts back on Earth.
The agency pointed out its funding problems, SpaceX’s track record of orbital missions, and other factors in a contract decision that NASA senior official Kathy Lueders called “what is the best value for the government.”
Blue Origin’s Administrator Bill Nelson was informed by Bezos that it would pay for an orbital mission to test its technology and waive all payments in the current fiscal year. Blue Origin would be willing to accept a fixed-price contract and pay for any system development costs overruns in exchange.
Bezos stated that NASA had diverted from its original dual source acquisition strategy because of perceived budgetary problems. “This offer removes that obstacle,” Bezos said.
Bezos said, “Without competition NASA’s long-term and short-term lunar ambitions would be delayed, cost more and not serve the national interests.”
NASA and SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to our requests for comment.
NASA had previously sought proposals to build a spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts to the lunar surface, and SpaceX was selected. This was part of its Artemis program that aims to bring humans back to the moon. Blue Origin’s lunar landing craft is named “Blue Moon.” Forbes lists Musk and Bezos as the richest people in the world, respectively.
Bezos’ offer came six days after he flew alongside three crewmates to the edge of space , aboard Blue Origin’s rocket-and-capsule New Shepard, a milestone for the company’s bid to become a major player in an emerging space tourism market.
Blue Origin, which lost out to SpaceX’s bid, filed a protest to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. They accused NASA of giving SpaceX an unfair advantage in allowing it to revise pricing. Although the GAO’s decision is expected to be made by August 1, industry sources believe that a reversal is unlikely,