In an open letter to NASA, Jeff Bezos has offered to waive billions of dollars in payments from the space agency in order to ensure his company Blue Origin gets to take part in its upcoming moon missions.
With a potential funding shortfall threatening to derail NASA’s planned moon missions – in particular its Human Landing System (HLS) – the billionaire founder of Amazon and the world’s wealthiest person has offered to bridge the financial gap “by waiving all payments in the current and next two government fiscal years up to $2bn to get the program back on track”.
His letter follows protests which Blue Origin filed with NASA after the agency awarded a contract worth nearly $3bn to SpaceX back in April to provide a lunar lander that will carry astronauts to the surface of the moon.
NASA’s new Artemis mission will return the space agency to the moon. Pic: NASA
It comes less than a week after Jeff Bezos himself ventured into space as part of Blue Origin’s first human mission, a feat which he controversially thanked Amazon employees and customers for paying for.
In his letter, Mr Bezos warned that the agency’s contract with SpaceX “broke the mould of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come”.
He said the decision “eliminated the benefits of utilising” Blue Origin, which has designed its system so that it is “capable of flying on multiple launch vehicles, including Falcon Heavy, SLS, Vulcan, and New Glenn”, while SpaceX’s system would require “10+ Super Heavy/Starship launches just to get a single lander to the surface”.
“Instead of this single source approach, NASA should embrace its original strategy of competition,” the letter said, noting NASA has begun to solicit new lunar lander proposals.
Blue Origin added to NASA that it will continue to develop and launch, at its own cost, a pathfinder mission to low-Earth orbit and an uncrewed moon landing mission as part of its work on the HLS.
The Lunar Gateway: An orbital outpost around the moon. Pic: NASA
NASA has not yet responded to the letter.
However, an audit report by NASA’s office of inspector general has warned that the Artemis programme – which aims to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024 – is “unlikely” to be achieved within this timeframe.
Artemis is named after the mythological sister of Apollo, the first moon mission’s namesake.