On Thursday, a federal judge ruled in favour of NASA in a dispute over who will build the lander that will return humans to the moon, dealing a major blow to Jeff Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin.
The two richest people on the planet, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, both want their companies to be at the centre of NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the moon. However, NASA only has enough funds to fund one of them, and it chose Musk’s SpaceX. Since then, Blue Origin has fought the decision, claiming that NASA favoured SpaceX unfairly and that the space agency would be better served by funding both SpaceX and Blue Origin’s plans to develop moon-landing vehicles.
NASA and SpaceX’s work on the contract for the Human Landing System (HLS), as the programme is known, had been put on hold due to the legal dispute. The work will now resume “as soon as possible,” according to a statement from the space agency.
The lawsuit, which was filed in federal claims court in August, has been kept under wraps because the companies asked the judge to keep much of the case confidential. Lawyers will meet on November 18 to reach an agreement on releasing a redacted version of the judge’s opinion, according to a Thursday filing.
Blue Origin’s lawsuit “highlighted the important safety issues with the Human Landing System procurement process that must still be addressed,” according to a statement, though the company still strongly supports NASA’s plans to return to the moon.
“Returning astronauts safely to the Moon through NASA’s public-private partnership model requires an unprejudiced procurement process alongside sound policy that incorporates redundant systems and promotes competition,” the statement said. “We look forward to hearing from NASA on next steps in the (Human Landing System) HLS procurement process.”
Bezos also weighed in with a tweet, saying it’s “not the decision we wanted, but we respect the court’s judgment, and wish full success for NASA and SpaceX on the contract.”