Nov 4, 2021 - Science

Blue Origin loses lawsuit against NASA over Moon lander contract

Craters on the Moon in black and white

The Moon as seen from the Apollo 8 capsule. Photo: NASA/JSC

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin has lost its lawsuit against NASA over the space agency's decision to not award the private space company a contract to build a lander to bring astronauts back to the Moon's surface.

Why it matters: The ruling deals a blow to Blue Origin's attempt to get back in the running to build a lander for NASA after the agency selected SpaceX as the sole winner of a $2.9 billion contract.

  • The lander is expected to be a critical part of NASA's goal of landing people back on the Moon's surface in 2024 with its Artemis program.

Driving the news: Federal claims court Judge Richard Hertling issued a short ruling Thursday, with plans to eventually make a version of the opinion public after the parties involved make redactions by Nov. 18.

Context: Before SpaceX was awarded the contract in April, it was thought that NASA would actually award at least two companies contracts to continue developing human landers for Artemis.

  • The agency ended up with just one awardee, however, due to lack of funding.
  • Blue Origin asked for $5.9 billion to develop its lunar lander.

Between the lines: NASA and SpaceX had to stall work on the human lander while the Blue Origin lawsuit was being worked out.

  • Now the agency and Elon Musk-founded company plan to start up work again "as soon as possible," according to a NASA statement.
  • The delay already could have a meaningful impact on whether NASA can get back to the Moon by 2024, experts have said.

What they're saying: "Not the decision we wanted, but we respect the court’s judgment, and wish full success for NASA and SpaceX on the contract," Bezos tweeted.

  • "There will be forthcoming opportunities for companies to partner with NASA in establishing a long-term human presence at the Moon under the agency’s Artemis program, including a call in 2022 to U.S. industry for recurring crewed lunar landing services," the agency said in the statement.
  • SpaceX has not yet released an official statement, though Musk did tweet a meme using an image from the movie "Judge Dredd" saying "you have been judged" in response to CNBC reporter Michael Sheetz's tweet about the ruling.
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