The space race between the world’s two richest men took a turn last day after electric vehicle maker Tesla chief Elon Musk took a swipe at eCommerce giant Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ attempt to challenge a major contract from the US space agency NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration).
The two billionaires, who have been trying to launch long-range orbital rockets, were competing for a greatly desired contract from the government to build a spaceship to deliver astronauts to the moon as early as 2024. Recently, Mr. Musk won it and Mr. Bezos was not happy about it.
Mr. Bezos’ Blue Origin filed a protest with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), accusing NASA of favoring contract bidders at the last minute.
Mr. Musk, who also leads the space transportation company SpaceX, fired back with a tweet that said, “Can’t get it up to orbit lol.” He did not elaborate on the tweet, but pasted a screenshot of a 2019 report about Mr. Bezos unveiling Blue Origin’s moon lander on the same Twitter thread.
Blue Origin has fallen far behind SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) on orbital transportation, losing out on billions of dollars’ worth of US national security launch contracts that begin in 2022. ULA is a joint venture of US-based aerospace companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin. These rocket startups mainly aim to send satellites for clients into orbit at an affordable price and reuse parts of rockets to keep costs in check.
Earlier this month, NASA awarded SpaceX the lunar contract over Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics. The much sought-after project aims to put humans back on the moon for the first time since 1972.
“NASA has executed a flawed acquisition for the Human Landing System program and moved the goalposts at the last minute,” Blue Origin said in an emailed statement. “Their decision eliminates opportunities for competition, significantly narrows the supply base, and not only delays, but also endangers America’s return to the moon. Because of that, we’ve filed a protest with the GAO.”
The GAO also confirmed that Dynetics had challenged the NASA contract award to SpaceX.