This new age of commercial space is going to be weird, and it appears that it is going to include a highly competitive space race between billionaires. I have to admit this was not the sci-fi future I expected to come true.
In an open letter on Monday, Jeff Bezos has offered NASA $2 billion of support from Blue Origin – in-kind contributions in the parlance of grant writers – if his company can be part of NASA’s plans to return humans to the moon. Essentially, if NASA says, “Sure, be part of our plans,” Blue Origin will pay – at least in part – for its contributions.
Backing up a bit, to add some context, NASA had run an open competition to select the rocket of rockets that would be used to deliver spacecraft and humans to lunar space. The original plan was to fund two different rockets and hope that both would succeed while increasing the chances that something would succeed. Unfortunately, Congress didn’t provide NASA with the budget necessary to fund two programs, and in the end, SpaceX was the winning company, and their StarShip, which is still under development, was selected. The Blue Origin proposal was actually part of a multi-company plan put together under the name Blue Moon.
According to the Washington Post: A NASA spokeswoman said the agency was aware of Bezos’s letter but declined further comment, citing pending litigation.
This is an unusual stick and carrot approach, where on one hand, Bezos is offering funding and on the other side, there is litigation. It is going to be fascinating to watch this play out. As our producer Ally stated earlier today: We’re headed for The Expanse.
Take that as you will and just know we live in strange times.
Open Letter to Administrator Nelson (Blue Origin)