Elon Musk isn’t fond of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, and he just made that patently clear. CNET reports that Musk told Code conference attendees Bezos should put more effort into “getting into orbit than lawsuits,” and that you couldn’t “sue your way to the Moon” as Blue Origin allegedly tried when it lost its lunar lander bid. He was also less-than-flattering to Virgin Galactic, describing its first passenger flight and Blue Origin’s as “a step in the direction of orbit” that fell short of SpaceX’s efforts.
While Musk is known for being harsh, he might have some support in this case. The Verge has obtained NASA legal documents showing that the space agency felt Blue Origin “gambled” with its originally proposed $5.9 billion lunar lander price. Bezos’ company allegedly set the price far higher than necessary as it expected NASA to award the contract and negotiate for a lower cost. Blue Origin also reportedly assumed NASA would get the full funding from Congress needed for that initial price, even as the Senate made clear NASA wouldn’t get the necessary amount.
You know what happened next. Rather than haggle the price, NASA picked the $2.9 billion SpaceX bid. Blue Origin challenged the award and even made a last-ditch $2 billion offer, but by then it was too late. The Government Accountability Office rejected Blue Origin’s claims, saying NASA didn’t violate regulations in picking SpaceX. Bezos’ outfit took NASA to court roughly two weeks later.
In an interview, Blue Origin VP Megan Mitchell told The Verge the company rejected NASA’s views. She felt Blue Origin made a “great offer” and that it disagreed with NASA’s gambling characterization. The GAO separately said NASA partly botched its safety review requirements for the proposal, although it still sided with SpaceX on grounds that Blue Origin didn’t explain how the move provided an unfair edge.
This isn’t to say Musk and SpaceX are innocent. SpaceX sued the US in 2019 after it lost an Air Force rocket contract to Blue Origin and other competitors, for example. It’s just that Musk’s trash talking appears to carry some weight in this modern Moon race.
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