Thanks to protests by two commercial space companies, NASA’s plans for sending American astronauts back to the moon by 2024 have been put on hold — at least temporarily.
The National Team, a multi-company partnership spearheaded by Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, and Alabama-based defence contractor Dynetics are both crying foul about a contract awarded to Elon Musk’s SpaceX last month for $2.9bn.
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Both Dynetics and Blue Origin have filed protests with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) against NASA, with Bezos’s company accusing the space agency of having “moved the goalposts at the last minute”.
The highly coveted contract is for a Human Landing System (HLS) that will ferry astronauts to the lunar surface for NASA. But the pending litigation has forced the United States space agency to put the brakes on any work related to the contract until the GAO issues its ruling, which is expected to be announced by August 4.
“NASA instructed SpaceX that progress on the HLS contract has been suspended until GAO resolves all outstanding litigation related to this procurement,” Monica Witt, a NASA spokesperson, said in a statement.
Right now, it’s unclear whether the delay will cause NASA to miss its 2024 goal. But it has already heated up a space battle between SpaceX and Blue Origin that has been raging for years — with Musk openly taunting fellow billionaire Bezos locker-room style on Twitter. Here’s how the feud started — and what’s at stake.