IMAGE: SPACEX UNSPLASH
NASA has suspended lunar lander contract with SpaceX that was reportedly for $ 2.9 billion. Elon Musk’s SpaceX was selected by NASA on April 16th this year to build NASA’s first human lunar lander since the Apollo program. However, the decision was challenged by SpaceX’s competitors who filed protests with US Government Accountability Office (GAO).
As reported by Verge, SpaceX, Blue Origin and Dynetics were in the running for NASA’s Artemis mission. Artemis mission is the name of NASA’s program to return astronauts to the lunar surface. After NASA announced that SpaceX will be the aerospace company to work on the moon lander for the mission, the other two companies protested the decision.
Reportedly, the company further argued that NASA gave SpaceX the chance to revise its bid while Blue Origin was not given that opportunity. Moreover, Blue Origin argued NASA’s decision to pick SpaceX will further the ‘monopolistic’ control SpaceX has in space exploration.
Dynetics and Blue Origin filed protests with GAO and Blue Origin even alleged that by only selecting SpaceX, NASA has endangered the 2024 timeline. Blue Origins also alleged that the agency unfairly “moved the goalposts at the last minute”. NASA spokeswoman Monica Witt gave a statement regarding the same to the media portal.
She stated that in light of the GAO protests, NASA has instructed SpaceX that progress on the HLS contract has been suspended. The contract shall remain suspended until GAO resolves all outstanding litigation related to the procurement, reports suggest.
As reported by the media portal, a NASA source selection document reveals that SpaceX’s bid was far cheaper than Blue Origin’s and Dynetics’. SpaceX’s fully reusable rocket system under development to eventually ferry humans and cargo to the moon and mars got NASA interested in SpaceX’s proposal. As mentioned above, the media portal suggests that SpaceX’s proposed bid was of $ 2.9 billion.
As stated on the official website of NASA, the mission is to land the first woman and first person of colour on the Moon. NASA will collaborate with commercial and international partners. Moreover, it shall establish sustainable exploration for the first time.