NASA is unable to make progress on its ambitious plans to send astronauts back to the Moon's surface. Instead, it is involved in legal battles over SpaceX's decision to give its lunar lander contract to NASA.
The Verge now has legal filings showing NASA's frustration with Jeff Bezos Blue Origins request for a negotiation of its $5.9 million lunar lander contract.
Backstory: NASA issued a call in 2019 to the private sector for a new design of spacecraft capable of returning astronauts to the moon's surface, allowing them to return the first time since 1972.
SpaceX received a contract worth $2.9 billion in April after several rounds. This prompted protests from Blue Origin and a lawsuit against NASA.
NASA was left with very limited funding from Congress, and had to choose the lowest bidder. Blue Origin, however, chose a different negotiation strategy and pitched its Blue Moon lander for $5.9 billion.
The Verge obtained documents showing that NASA claimed Blue Origin was acting in bad Faith in May and decided to submit a higher bid in the expectation that NASA would negotiate them down.
Blue Origin believed that NASA would be able to pay its high asking price. However, that was not true. Congress placed restrictions on NASA's return to the Moon project.
According to The Verge, the Bezos-led firm argued that it should have changed the terms of its contract after it became clear that Congress would only give it a fraction.
NASA was not convinced by this argument and called the space company out on its bet that it lost in documents.
Blue Origin is now realizing that it lost and gambled, and seeks to use GAOs procurement oversight function in order to illegally compel NASA to pay the consequences of Blue Origins illconceived choices. This was the May report by the attorney for Blue Origin, which The Verge quoted.
NASA's leadership was not influenced by Bezos' sweetening of the deal with a $2B discount in July.
Blue Origin also claimed that SpaceX was not ensuring proper safety reviews before each launch of its rocket during Starship prototype testing. Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO, dismissed the argument by tweeting last week that SpaceX always conducts flight readiness reviews. This argument is absurd.
What does this mean for NASA's Artemis program, then? Blue Origins lawsuit has already proved to be a major setback to the agency's ambitious plans.
Either the court rules that SpaceX was unfairly treated by NASA or that Blue Origins protests were null. Both of these outcomes could have drastically different outcomes.
The stakes are even higher than ever. SpaceX and NASA may soon make progress on the Starship rocket launch vehicle, but the contract could be rewritten entirely. This could spell doom for NASA's efforts to send astronauts back to the Moon.
READ MORE: NASA claims that Blue Origin made a mistake in pricing its Moon lander, as NASA states in legal documents [The Verge]
Further details: NASA Head Jeff Bezos Lawsuit May Delay Human Moon Landing
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