In an open letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson penned by billionaire founder Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin offered more than $2 billion to be a part of the agency’s Human Landing System program.
Earlier this year, NASA surprised many by selecting SpaceX as the sole-source provider of a human-rated lunar lander for the agency’s initial Artemis mission to the Moon. The primary decision for the single award was due to a lack of funding allocated to the program for the fiscal year 2021.
The decision locked out the Blue Origin-led National Team who subsequently laid a complaint with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) contesting the award. The GAO is expected to announce its ruling on the matter early next week.
The July 26 Bezos letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson appears to be an attempt to counter an unfavourable decision from the GAO. In the letter, Jeff Bezos on behalf of Blue origin has offered to waive any shortfall in funding up to $2 billion over the next three years to allow NASA to select the National Team as a second provider.
In addition to the $2 billion in waived funding, Blue Origin will continue to develop key technology and launch a pathfinder mission to low Earth orbit all on its own dime.
Although the “pay-to-play” offer is brazen on its face, many have taken the view that it cannot be ignored despite its brashness.
“I don’t know about its legality, but offering $2B+ to develop a competitive lander can’t be ignored,” former NASA Administrator Lori Garver wrote on Twitter. “Sure, it is unconventional, but hasn’t everyone (including Elon) been saying Jeff needs to take more of a personal interest?”
In addition to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, the July 26 letter is careful to catch the attention of a second audience.
The letter opens by stating the National Team’s bid includes over 200 large, medium and small partners from over 47 states. This statement is designed to remind members of congress that the selection of the National Team will equal jobs for their citizens, a powerful message for Senators as they approach midterm elections next year.
This between-the-lines message to congress is hammered home in the final paragraphs of the letter reminding Senators that the addition of a second provider has already received strong bipartisan support.