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Source: Joe Skipper/Reuters
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  • Jeff Bezos offers to cover up to US$2 billion (A$2.71 billion) in expenses if NASA awards Blue Origin its moon-landing contract
  • The agency awarded the US$2.9 billion (A$3.93 billion) deal to Elon Musk’s SpaceX in April
  • NASA is looking to put people on the moon for the first time since 1972 under its Artemis program
  • While Blue Origin sees the contract reversal as unlikely, a decision is expected by early August

Jeff Bezos has offered to cover up to US$2 billion (A$2.71 billion) in expenses if NASA awards his Blue Origin space company the contract to build a spacecraft for a proposed moon-landing mission as early as 2024.

In April, the agency gave the US$2.9 billion (A$3.93 billion) deal to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, rejecting a bid from Blue Origin and defence contractor Dynetics at the same time. Blue Origin partnered with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper in the most recent bid.

In a letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Bezos said his company would waive payments in the government’s current fiscal year — and the next ones after that — up to US$2 billion (A$2.71 billion), and pay for an orbital mission to test its technology. In exchange, Blue Origin would accept a fixed-price contract and cover any system development cost overruns.

“NASA veered from its original dual-source acquisition strategy due to perceived near-term budgetary issues, and this offer removes that obstacle,” Bezos said.

“Without competition, NASA’s short-term and long-term lunar ambitions will be delayed, will ultimately cost more, and won’t serve the national interest.”

While a NASA spokesperson said the agency was aware of the letter, they declined to comment further, citing a protest Blue Origin filed with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) that accused the agency of giving SpaceX an unfair advantage by allowing it to revise its pricing.

Despite sources saying Blue Origin sees the contract reversal as unlikely, the GAO is expected to reveal its decision by early August.

Prior to choosing SpaceX, NASA had sought proposals for a spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts to the lunar surface under its Artemis program, which aims to return humans to moon for the first time since 1972.

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