This is an illustration provided by SpaceX shows the SpaceX Starship human lander design that will carry the first NASA astronauts to the surface of the Moon under the Artemis program. Jeff Bezos has lost his appeal of NASA's contract with Elon Musk's SpaceX to build its new moon lander. The Government Accountability Office Friday, July 30, 2021 ruled that NASA's award of the $2.9 billion contract to just SpaceX was legal and proper.(SpaceX/NASA via AP)
The federal government Friday rejected an appeal by billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to get in on NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the moon by using rival Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
NASA in April awarded the $2.9 billion contract for a lunar lander to the more established SpaceX, which also offered a cheaper price than the bids from Blue Origin and Dynetics Inc., a subsidiary of Leidos. The two losing companies appealed the contract to the Government Accountability Office on the grounds that there should have been multiple contracts and that the proposals weren’t evaluated correctly, but the agency rejected their request.
The decision will allow “NASA and SpaceX to establish a timeline for the first crewed landing on the moon in more than 50 years,” NASA said in a statement Friday, calling a moon landing a priority of the Biden administration.
Friday’s ruling found that even though NASA originally said it was going to give multiple contracts, it didn’t have enough money and that awarding only one contract was legal. Plus, it found NASA’s evaluation of all three bids “was reasonable, and consistent with applicable procurement law regulation and the announcement terms,” according to a statement by GAO lawyer Kenneth Patton.
SpaceX’s bid had the highest rating while the other bids “were significantly higher in price” with the space agency deciding it couldn’t afford to give out multiple contracts as originally planned, the GAO announcement said.
Blue Origin, which has been trying to get Congress to require a second lander contract, still hopes NASA will change its mind and provide “simultaneous competition,” said company spokesperson Linda Mills.
“We stand firm in our belief that there were fundamental issues with NASA’s decision, but the GAO wasn’t able to address them due to their limited jurisdiction,” Mills said in a statement. “We continue to advocate for two immediate providers as we believe it is the right solution.”
The lunar lander is part of the agency’s beyond-Earth exploration plans, refocused on the moon by the Trump administration. The Artemis program involves a new huge rocket that would launch four astronauts aboard an Orion space capsule to the moon’s orbit. The lander would take two astronauts to the moon’s surface, where they’d explore for about a week, hook back up with Orion in lunar orbit and return to Earth.
The SpaceX lander, called Starship, “includes a spacious cabin” and can be expanded to a fully reusable launch system for travel to the moon, Mars and other places, NASA said when it awarded the contract.
A test flight of the capsule, without astronauts aboard, is scheduled for this year, with a test flight by astronauts to the moon — but without a landing — planned for 2023, according to NASA.
Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.7 Travel Stocks to Buy as Summer Kicks Into High Gear
The last 18 months have created much uncertainty in the market. And it has been a catalyst for the gamification of stock trading. However, there was one prediction that looked like a good bet then and does even more so now. That prediction was that Americans would begin to travel en masse as soon as they possibly could.
While America may not be back to a pre-pandemic normal, it’s much closer than it was just six months ago. And Americans are making investors in travel stocks very happy.
But is this a case of the easy gains being gone? Should investors be concerned about the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus that is causing public health restrictions to be enacted in certain areas of the world?
At this point, neither of those statements seems to be true. That’s why we’ve put together this special presentation that focuses on travel stocks. We’ve looked at different sectors of the travel category and selected a sample of companies whose stocks look like good investments for the rest of 2021 and likely beyond.
View the "7 Travel Stocks to Buy as Summer Kicks Into High Gear"