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Photo: NASA/JPL/USGS

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin is challenging NASA's decision to award SpaceX the sole contract to build a human lander system for the space agency's return to the Moon.

Why it matters: These types of big government contracts are hugely important as a source of funding for Blue Origin and SpaceX.

Catch up quick: NASA announced that it had awarded SpaceX the contract on April 16, surprising many in the space industry who expected the agency to give out at least two contracts in order to maintain competition.

  • Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper combined their efforts to bid as one team led by Blue Origin for the contract.
  • Dynetics, which has also filed a protest, was also separately competing for the contract.
  • SpaceX was awarded $2.89 billion for the milestone-based contract, about half as much as Blue Origin bid.

Driving the news: Blue Origin filed its protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Monday.

  • "NASA has executed a flawed acquisition for the Human Landing System program and moved the goalposts at the last minute," Blue Origin said in a statement.
  • "In NASA’s own words, it has made a ‘high risk’ selection. Their decision eliminates opportunities for competition, significantly narrows the supply base, and not only delays, but also endangers America’s return to the Moon. Because of that, we’ve filed a protest with the GAO."

The intrigue: President Biden's pick to lead NASA, Bill Nelson, also faced questions about the award during his confirmation hearing last week, responding that he will come back to Congress with a plan to maintain resiliency of the human lander program as it moves forward.

The big picture: NASA still appears to be pushing to launch its first crewed mission back to the Moon as part of Artemis in 2024, giving SpaceX little time to get its system ready for flight and human passengers.

  • Awarding contracts to two different providers doesn't just maintain competition; it also allows for redundancy, which could be key as technical snags always come up when building a new system.

Go deeper

12 mins ago - World

Israel's "change bloc" collapses, leaving Netanyahu in charge

Bennett (L) with Netanyahu in 2015. Photo: Gali Tibbon/AFP via Getty Images

In a dramatic shift that comes amid fighting in the Gaza strip and clashes between Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel, right-wing kingmaker Naftali Bennett has announced he will no longer seek an alternative government to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Why it matters: Bennett had been on the verge of a power-sharing deal with centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid that would have made him prime minister for two years until Lapid rotated into the job. Without Bennett, Lapid has no path to a majority, and Israel will almost certainly head for its fifth election since 2019 with Netanyahu still in his post.

CDC says fully vaccinated people don't have to wear masks indoors

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Erin Clark-Pool/Getty Images

The CDC announced in new guidance Thursday that anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, regardless of crowd size.

What they're saying: "If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky will say at a White House press briefing.

Colonial Pipeline reportedly paid hackers nearly $5 million in ransom

Photo: Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images

Colonial Pipeline paid hackers linked to the DarkSide cybercrime group nearly $5 million in cryptocurrency after last week's ransomware attack, Bloomberg first reported and the New York Times confirmed.

Why it matters: The breach of the largest refined fuels pipeline in the U.S. triggered new concerns about the vulnerability of the country's increasingly digitized energy systems.