Two of the richest men in the world are vying for the privilege of sending the first astronauts to the moon’s surface since the end of NASA’s Apollo program in the 1970s. Blue Origin, the space company created by Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, on Monday filed an official protest against NASA’s decision to choose Elon Musk’s SpaceX and his Starship spacecraft for the first trips to the moon as part of its Artemis program.
NASA surprised much of the space industry when it chose SpaceX as the sole supplier of the human landing system for Artemis. The US space agency was supposed to select two of the three companies that submitted a final bid to create competing lander designs. By choosing SpaceX rather than its rivals Blue Origin and Dynetics, NASA explained that Congress had not allocated enough funds to select more than one candidate.
Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lander unveiled in 2019
Blue Origin’s protest has been lodged with the Government Accountability Office (in charge of auditing the public accounts of the federal budget). In it, lawyers for Blue Origin claim that NASA’s assessment process unfairly favored SpaceX in several ways, in particular that SpaceX’s lowest cost bid was unduly weighted in taking final decision. NASA has not yet publicly reacted to this procedure.
This is not the first time that Blue Origin has been upset by the relationship between the US government and SpaceX. Last year, the company lost the bidding process for a lucrative contract with the Space Force. Blue Origin later believed that the move caused a delay in the launch of its New Glenn rocket, designed to compete with the Starship.
Jeff Bezos unveiled Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lunar lander concept in 2019, but spacecraft development has lagged behind SpaceX in recent years. As Blue Origin draws closer to its first manned space flight aboard its New Shepard spacecraft, SpaceX has just completed its third mission to transport astronauts to the International Space Station aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavor in which flew away Thomas Pesquet.
Article from CNET.com adapted by CNETFrance