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Photo: NASA/JPL/USGS

Jeff Bezos is offering NASA $2 billion in incentives if the space agency awards his company Blue Origin a contract to build a human lunar lander.

Why it matters: NASA is working to send people to the Moon by 2024 and a privately built, human-rated lander is a huge part of that goal.

Catch up quick: The space agency awarded SpaceX the sole contract to build the lander in April, beating out Blue Origin and another company, Dynetics.

  • The sole award also surprised the space industry, which was initially expecting NASA would pick two companies to continue on with the development of their landers.
  • The agency cited budget concerns for the reason they only went with SpaceX.
  • Blue Origin and Dynetics both filed protests with the Government Accountability Office that the GAO is required to respond to by early August.

What's happening: Bezos' offer is the company's latest bid to disrupt that contract award and make it back into the running to provide a lunar lander to NASA.

  • Blue Origin is specifically offering to waive payments up to $2 billion over the next two fiscal years to get the human lander system program “back on track,” according to a letter Bezos wrote NASA administrator Bill Nelson.
  • "This offer is not a deferral, but is an outright and permanent waiver of those payments," the letter says. "This offer provides time for government appropriation actions to catch up."

The big picture: Many see picking more than one provider as essential for NASA as it shoots for the Moon.

  • These systems are difficult to develop, and just relying on one contractor could open up the space agency to major deadline issues if its sole provider gets mired in technical challenges.

Go deeper

Latinos get NASA to Mars

Diana Trujillo during a 2019 conference in California. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Recent missions from the space agency have been made possible with the work of Latino and Latina engineers.

Details: Aerospace engineer Diana Trujillo moved from Colombia to the U.S. speaking no English. She paid her way through school by working as a housekeeper. She is now a lead scientist for the Mars Perseverance rover.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Sep 7, 2021 - Science

What it takes to train for space

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The all-civilian Inspiration4 crew's training program to prepare them for their trip to orbit is a reality check on the space industry's goal to send many more ordinary people to space.

Why it matters: One day SpaceX, which is operating the upcoming mission, hopes to help establish a settlement on Mars and other companies like Blue Origin are working to build futures where millions of people live and work in space. In order to do that, more people need to fly to space — with far less preparation and more ease.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Sep 14, 2021 - Science

Wrestling with the risks of private missions to space

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The all-civilian Inspiration4 crew, launching to orbit this week, will force the space industry to contend with just how much risk ordinary people are willing to take on in order to build humanity's future in space.

Why it matters: The private space industry's goal of building an economy in space hinges on sending more people to orbit in the near future. But spaceflight is still an incredibly risky endeavor and it will likely remain that way for the foreseeable future.