Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos offered NASA to save up to $2 billion on the development of a lunar lander by letting Blue Origin fund a research mission in exchange for a contract from the space agency that would allow Blue Origin to send astronauts to the Moon.
The program in question is the Human Landing System program, within which people will visit the Moon for the first time since 1972.
As part of the research mission, NASA announced a competition between three companies: Dynetics, Elon Musk's SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, which were supposed to build a lunar lander. It was expected that the competition would be limited to two companies, as it is typical for the space agency to contract with two suppliers at once.
However, NASA deviated from its historical practice and announced that it had only selected Elon Musk's SpaceX, which had a $2.89 billion plan for its lander. NASA suspended the contract in May due to protests from competitors.
The Blue Origin project was estimated more than two times more expensive – at $5.99 billion. Now Jeff Bezos proposes to reduce this cost by $2 billion. NASA's decision to use only one supplier is explained by low funding for the project. Instead of the requested $3.4 billion, the space agency received only $850 million in 2021.
In an open letter to NASA, Jeff Bezos directly criticized NASA's actions:
"Instead of investing in two competing lunar landers as initially intended, the Agency chose to confer a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar head start to SpaceX. That decision broke the mold of NASA's successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come."
Blue Origin has previously questioned the decision of NASA to use only one vendor. Just a week after the winner was announced, Jeff Bezos' company, along with Dynetics, filed a protest with the US Government Accountability Office over poor competition conditions.