Billionaire Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Blue Origin space missions, offered NASA a $2 billion discount on Monday in exchange for his company building a lunar lander.
NASA’s contract, worth about $2.9 billion, to build a manned lander on the moon, was awarded last April to the competing company, “SpaceX”, owned by American billionaire Elon Musk, but “Blue Origin” and a third company, “Dynetics”, submitted objections to the outcome of the tender. The US Audit Bureau has not yet decided on them.
The United States seeks to return to the moon by 2024 within the “Artemis” program, in preparation for a manned mission to Mars in the thirties of this century.
And Bezos considered, in a letter to NASA, that his offer allows “to bridge the funding shortfall” that prompted the US Agency to award the contract to one company instead of two competing.
Blue Origin has launched a frantic lobbying campaign to overturn the decision since it failed to win a NASA bid, prompting the US Senate to pass a bill approving $10 billion for a manned lander.
But the bill is still being debated in the House of Representatives and its opponents have described it as a “Bezos bailout.”
Bezos pointed out that one of the advantages of the “Blue Moon” lander that his company is building is its use of liquid hydrogen as a fuel, as it can be extracted from the moon’s ice, which coincides with NASA’s plans to use the moon to fuel rockets during distant operations in the solar system.
He added that the company will, at its own expense, conduct Earth orbit tests on its lander.
“We are ready to help NASA reduce its technical risks, resolve its financial constraints, and return the Artemis program to a more competitive, credible, and sustainable path,” Bezos said.
It is not certain that Bezos’ last-minute initiative will change the outcome of the bidding.