Jeff Bezos offers NASA $2 billion in plea for moon mission role
Perhaps buoyed by his recent rocket ride to the edge of space, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has offered to contribute several billions dollars to NASA’s coffers if it includes his spaceflight company, Blue Origin, in its plans for the upcoming Artemis moon missions.
In an open letter sent to NASA chief Bill Nelson on Monday, July 26, Bezos offered budgetary assistance to the tune of $2 billion if the space agency lets Blue Origin build a moon lander for a crewed trip to the lunar surface that’s tentatively scheduled for 2024.
Notably, the offer comes after NASA awarded the $2.9 billion contract for the Human Landing System (HLS) to SpaceX in April, a decision that was contested at the time by Blue Origin and another company, Dynetics. A decision on the challenge is expected in the coming days from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
In his letter, Bezos said the proposed multi-billion-dollar contribution from Blue Origin would “bridge the HLS budgetary funding shortfall by waiving all payments in the current and next two government fiscal years.”
The billionaire businessman also said his company would cover the costs of testing the lander in missions in low-Earth orbit, saving NASA further spending likely worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Raising one of several concerns, Bezos said the space agency’s decision to confer a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar head start to SpaceX “broke the mold of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come,” with its decision to go with one provider opening it up to greater risk of mission delays.
Bezos went on to say that in recent weeks, “the shortfalls of this single source selection have been recognized, and NASA has begun to solicit new lunar lander proposals. But, unfortunately, this new approach won’t create true competition because it is rushed, it is unfunded, and it provides a multi-year head-start to the one funded, single-source supplier … The Agency must act now to create the real competition it needs, and it should not repeat work already delivered and investments already made.”
Bezos’ offer to throw in $2 billion of his own cash shows that the world’s richest man is keener than ever to see Blue Origin become a key part of NASA’s current lunar program.
“I believe this mission is important,” Bezos said. “I am honored to offer these contributions and am grateful to be in a financial position to be able to do so.”
NASA has so far declined to make any public comment on Bezos’ letter. No doubt interested parties will also be watching the Twitter account of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who may or may not offer his own take on the matter in the coming days.
Bezos’ plea to NASA comes just days after Blue Origin sent him and three others to the edge of space in the company’s suborbital New Shepard rocket in a ride that paves the way for space tourism trips.