The battle for domination of space by private firms is not new. The latest competition saw Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos tussle in the race to make commercial space tourism a reality. Now, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has taken a swipe at Bezos' Blue Origin for hiring a high-profile strategic advisory firm after it lost a $2.9 billion (roughly Rs. 21,540 crores) NASA lunar lander contract to SpaceX. Without naming Bezos, Musk said the billionaire should “consider spending some money” on actual lunar lander hardware, instead of “shady lobbyists.”
This appears to suggest that the bid by Blue Origin required more technical expertise.
Blue Origin has already sued the US government over the contract. In its lawsuit filed in the US Court of Federal Claims, the company said it is “an attempt to remedy the flaws in the acquisition process found in NASA's Human Landing System.”
Under its Artemis programme, NASA had sought proposals for a spacecraft that would carry astronauts to the lunar surface. In April, the US space agency awarded the contract to SpaceX and asked it to build a spacecraft to be able to take humans to the moon again by 2024.
Other bidders, including Blue Origin, protested the contract being given to a single venture, arguing that NASA was required to make multiple awards. Blue Origin contended that NASA also favoured SpaceX by letting it revise its pricing. It has strongly lobbied to ensure the decision is reversed. Bezos' company has also filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Office, which upheld NASA's decision in July.
Even when Branson beat Bezos in the first round of the commercial space race in July, Musk had sided with Branson. Rivals Musk and Bezos have long shared a frosty relationship on social media.
NASA's Artemis programme is aimed at returning humans to the Moon and building a lunar orbital station. In the second part, a crewed mission will be sent to Mars in the 2030s. SpaceX, founded by Musk in 2002, is NASA's leading private sector partner currently.