Jeff Bezos Offers NASA Billions in Funding for Lunar Mission Contract

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Blue Origin, wrote a letter to NASA on Monday offering billions of dollars to pay for his own contract for a mission to the moon.

In a letter to National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Bill Nelson, Bezos wrote, "Blue Origin is committed to building a future where millions of people live and work in space to benefit the Earth. We are convinced that, to advance America's future in space, NASA must now quickly and assuredly return to the Moon...This is why Blue Origin answered NASA's urgent call to develop a Human Landing System."

The letter went on to list the benefits of Blue Origin's Human Landing System (HLS), such as its ability to "on multiple launch vehicles, including Falcon Heavy, SLS, Vulcan, and New Glenn."

Bezos then wrote in the letter that despite the benefits of Blue Origin's HLS, NASA's Source Selection Official "veered from the Agency's oft-stated procurement strategy," and awarded Elon Musk's SpaceX with the contract for future lunar missions.

NASA announced in May that it awarded a $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX to bring astronauts to the surface of the Moon.

According to the Washington Post, NASA was originally expected to choose three private space exploration companies and would choose two of them to build a Human Landing System.

In a NASA document obtained by the Post, the agency said that it chose SpaceX because "NASA's current fiscal year budget did not support even a single [contract] award," after SpaceX alerted its payment schedule to fit "within NASA's current budget."

Bezos said in the letter that NASA's decision to award the lunar contract to SpaceX "broke the mold of NASA's successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come."

"Instead of this single source approach, NASA should embrace its original strategy of competition. Competition will prevent any single source from having insurmountable leverage over NASA," Bezos wrote in the letter.

The Amazon founder also said that while SpaceX was given the opportunity to revise its price for the contract, Blue Origin was not offered the same opportunity but noted that "it is not too late to remedy."

Bezos then went on to say that Blue Origin "will bridge the HLS budgetary funding shortfall by waiving all payments in the current and next two government fiscal years up to $2B to get the program back on track right now."

Bezos also said that Blue Origin will accept a fixed-price contract for its work as well as covering "any system development cost overruns, and shield NASA from partner cost escalation concerns."

"I believe this mission is important. I am honored to offer these contributions and am grateful to be in a financial position to be able to do so. NASA veered from its original dual-source acquisition strategy due to perceived near-term budgetary issues, and this offer removes that obstacle," Bezos wrote at the end of the letter.

Newsweek was directed to Bezos' letter after reaching out to Blue Origin for comment.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, a spokesperson for NASA acknowledged the letter Bezos wrote on Monday but said that the agency had no further comment.

Earlier this month, Bezos manned a successful 10-minute trip to space aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft. Bezos followed Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson as the second billionaire to venture into space on his self-funded spacecraft.

In addition to NASA awarding the lunar mission contract to SpaceX, last Friday it announced that SpaceX won the agency's contract for a mission to investigate Jupiter's moon, Europa.

Updated 07/27/2021, 10:10 a.m. ET: This story has been updated to include a statement from a NASA spokesperson.

Jeff Bezos Blue Origin Flight
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos offered NASA billions in funding to pay for his own contract for a lunar mission. Above, Blue Origin’s New Shepard crew (from left) Jeff Bezos, Wally Funk, Oliver Daemen and Mark Bezos walk near the booster to pose for a picture after flying into space in the Blue Origin New Shepard rocket on July 20, 2021, in Van Horn, Texas. Joe Raedle/Getty