Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos offered to waive $2 billion in payments to secure his spaceflight company Blue Origin a NASA contract.
Bezos asked NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in an open letter Monday to award Blue Origin a contract to construct a Human Landing System (HLS), a lunar-landing vehicle, as part of the Artemis program, offering to waive up to $2 billion in fees. Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX had been awarded the $2.9 billion contract in April, beating out Blue Origin’s bid, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The Artemis program is intended to return human astronauts to the Moon, with a manned mission to Mars planned as well. Though the program was initially planned as a joint contract, it was awarded solely to SpaceX due to budgetary constraints which Bezos’ offer sought to alleviate, according to the letter.
“Blue Origin will bridge the HLS budgetary funding shortfall by waiving all payments in the current and next two government fiscal years up to $2 billion to get the program back on track right now,” Bezos wrote in the letter.
The Blue Origin CEO argued that two space companies competing with one another would provide NASA with more options, and prevent one company from having leverage over the agency.
“Without competition, NASA’s short-term and long-term lunar ambitions will be delayed, will ultimately cost more, and won’t serve the national interest,” Bezos wrote.
Today Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin make @NASA and @SenBillNelson an unprecedented offer to restore competition to the HLS program. This visionary investment would include a $2B waiver in payments, and a flight pathfinder mission to test out key systemshttps://t.co/I3UdNlKLTI— Ben Cichy (@bencichy) July 26, 2021
Bezos also offered to pay for a pathfinder mission to low-Earth orbit in addition to the waived $2 billion, and said Blue Origin would accept a fixed-price contract to cover the expenses not waived.
Bezos successfully reached space himself last week, when his New Shepard rocket exited the atmosphere on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. Bezos currently competes with fellow billionaires Richard Branson and Elon Musk to commercialize space.
“I believe this mission is important. I am honored to offer these contributions and am grateful to be in a financial position to be able to do so,” Bezos wrote. “We believe this offer provides a strong foundation, both technically and fiscally, for the return of Americans to the Moon – this time to stay.”
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