Elon Musk has trolled Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin after it filed a lawsuit with the US Government Accountability Office challenging NASA’s decision to award SpaceX a contract on the construction of a Moon lander that will bring astronauts back to the Earth's natural satellite by 2024.
Commenting on the news posted on Twitter by a science reporter from The New York Times, Musk drew attention to the fact that none of the rockets developed by Blue Origin have yet reached orbit.
Can’t get it up (to orbit) lol— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 26, 2021
Some of social media users joined Musk in taking a dig at Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin.
He doesn’t have one of these. 🍆 pic.twitter.com/iP8b4lkd6s— Kim Paquette 💫🦄 (@kimpaquette) April 26, 2021
No, only this/these pic.twitter.com/VmgykmKUz7— 🚀 🐉 Don't Bet Against Elon 🐉🚀 (@SteveHamel16) April 26, 2021
Commenting on the company’s lawsuit, Bob Smith, chief executive of Blue Origin, said NASA had misjudged the advantages of Blue Origin’s bid and downplayed challenges in the proposal presented by SpaceX.
"It’s really atypical for NASA to make these kinds of errors. They’re generally quite good at acquisition, especially its flagship missions like returning America to the surface of the Moon. We felt that these errors needed to be addressed and remedied", Bob Smith said.
Blue Origin’s lander was developed in collaboration with three other companies that have a lot of experience in the aerospace industry - Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper. The lander looks like a bigger version of the one NASA used during the Apollo missions in the second half of the 20th century.
Blue Origin unveils mock-up of Blue Moon Lunar Lander concept at an event in Washington D.C. They are working to help the USA achieve the Trump administration’s goal of putting U.S. astronauts back on the moon by 2024.https://t.co/vCv5vvbyG8#jeff #bezos #amazon #space #business pic.twitter.com/9ZKOwTlhvL— AeroSpaceGuide (@AeroSpaceGuide) May 15, 2019
SpaceX, in its turn, proposed readapting its next-generation Starship rocket. According to NASA, its lander will have a "spacious cabin and two airlocks for astronaut moonwalks". SpaceX's plan to make the Starship reusable would not only cut the cost of space missions, but would significantly simplify them. SpaceX also has more experience in sending humans to space. Last week, it sent a third group of astronauts to the International Space Station.
However, it appears that experience and design were not the key factors behind NASA’s decision to award the contract to SpaceX. Normally, the space agency chooses two companies when awarding contracts for space missions. This option is reportedly used to ensure competition, which would drive costs down as well as a second choice if one of the companies experiences a setback.
This time, the space agency chose only one bid, because it received only a quarter of the funding from Congress that it had asked for.
"I made a determination that it would be in the agency's best interests to make an initial, conditional selection of SpaceX", said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s head of human exploration.
Blue Origin’s $6 billion proposal was more than double the price ($2.9 billion) of what SpaceX offered to NASA.
NASA's upcoming space mission to the Moon will see the agency landing the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface. The mission is part of the Artemis programme, initiated under the Trump administration. NASA not only plans to return to the Moon, but establish a human presence there. The agency wants to land on the Moon's South Pole, which is in rich in water-ice that can be converted into fuel and breathable air for a lunar station. The flight is expected to take place by 2024.