Legal battle for a lunar lander

back to moon In a program Artemis NASA survived the political rotation that made Joe Biden become the new president of the United States. So the US agency is still preparing for a manned mission on our natural satellite with 2024 in sight. But unexpected legal events arose.

NASA chooses SpaceX

NASA’s Artemis program calls for international cooperation. Thus, the European Space Agency (ESA) has positioned itself as a lead partner by participating in the future construction of the Gateway Station around the Moon (providing two modules in particular). In the chosen mission planner, a NASA Orion capsule will dock at the gate where the lunar probe will wait for the astronauts. On this ship, the crew will descend to lunar soil. Obviously, this 21st century lunar lander will also be responsible for bringing it back to the Gateway station. It will be back to Earth with Orion.
For this lunar landing known as HLS for Human Landing System, NASA decided to use turnkey service logic via private companies. Thus, the proposals were made before SpaceX, Elon Musk Corporation, the National Team which is involved in several airlines under the supervision of blue origin It was founded by Jeff Bezos and the industrial group Dynetics.
On April 16, 2021, NASA announced that it had chosen SpaceX (video below).

This choice was discussed technically, as the US agency considered SpaceX’s proposal, based on a lunar version of the Starship under development, as the most mature. The other argument relates to available budgets. Because Congress did not vote on all the funds required for HLS, NASA kept only one provider.

SpaceX spacecraft in the “lunar module” version.
Credit: SpaceX

Blue Origin Contest

The national team’s response via Blue Origin 10 days later, on April 16, resulted in a complaint to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an official body of congressional public scrutiny. Jeff Bezos, who created Blue Origin in September 2000, has made no secret of his space ambitions and in May 2019 he also presented the prototype of the Blue Moon lander that served as the basis for the national team’s proposal.

The national team's lunar lander combining Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper Laboratory.  Credit: Blue Origin.

The national team’s lunar lander combining Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper Laboratory.
Credit: Blue Origin.

Jeff Bezos explains that SpaceX as the sole supplier of HLS from Artemis puts the program at risk in the event of a problem and opposes the principle of resorting to competition that NASA initially wanted. On July 26, billionaire A . wrote: An Open Letter to New NASA Administrator Bill Nelson To emphasize the advantages of its lander and the weaknesses of SpaceX’s. Finally, he promises Blue Origin will commit $2 billion to reduce the note…
On July 30, the Government Accountability Office rejected Blue Origin’s arguments. Resolution is up to the topic Document 76 pages Released on August 10.
Jeff Bezos is not throwing in the towel. In addition to the generous donations of many institutions responsible for scientific education or preservation of space heritage (eg $200 million in the Smithsonian Institution), the head of Blue Origin made harsh criticism of SpaceX’s Lunar Starship, especially with the graphic below.

Disadvantages and risks of the lunar module according to Blue Origin.  Credit: Blue Origin

Disadvantages and risks of the lunar module according to Blue Origin.
Credit: Blue Origin

Note that the claim that it would take 16 flights aboard the spacecraft (to bring in the necessary motivation) to accomplish a SpaceX-style lunar mission remains to be verified. Elon Musk instead raised 8 flights (which is a logistical challenge).
This smear campaign is not necessarily well received. Jeff Bezos hasn’t given up yet, and on August 13, Blue Origin this time moved the case to a Federal Court. NASA clarifies that its officialsContinue to work with the Ministry of Justice to review the details of the case and look for an early resolutionBut the procedure is in progress, the US agency decided on August 19 to take a break at least until November 1 for everything related to HLS with SpaceX. However, Elon Musk continues to develop its giant launch pad with its own money as it has been doing for a while. Only the lunar version of NASA is affected.Legal arguments from NASA and Blue Origin must be heard orally as of Oct. 14.

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