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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

At least 3 dead after Amtrak train derails in Montana

Photo: Jacob Cordeiro/Twitter

An Amtrak train derailed near Joplin, Montana, resulting in at least three deaths and multiple injuries to passengers and crew on Saturday, per authorities and a company statement.

The big picture: 141 passengers and 16 crew members were estimated to be traveling on the westbound Empire Builder train from Chicago to Seattle and Portland when eight of the 10 cars derailed about 4p.m., Amtrak said early Sunday.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Federal judge blocks vaccine mandate for NYC teachers

Students are dismissed from the first day of school at PS 133 in Brooklyn on Sept. 13. Photo: Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty Images

A federal appeals court is set to hear a challenge Wednesday to a vaccine mandate planned for New York City school employees.

Why it matters The vaccine mandate was set to begin on Monday, prompting concerns over staffing shortages in schools across the nation's largest school system. But a judge on Friday temporarily blocked the measure, per AP.

New York prepares for staff shortages from health vaccine mandate

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul during a news conference Tuesday in New York City.. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced Saturday she would declare a state of emergency if there were health worker shortages due to New York's upcoming COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Why it matters: Hochul moved to reassure concerns of staffing shortages in the health care sector in a statement that also outlined plans to call in medically trained National Guard members, workers from outside New York and retirees if necessary when the mandate takes effect Monday.