Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos offered billion-dollar coverage of NASA costs in exchange for a contract to build a lunar probe to take astronauts to the moon.
Bezos said Blue Origin would waive all payments up to $2 billion from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the current and next two years.
Blue Origin funds its own discovery mission to Earth orbit. In exchange, the company requested a fixed-price contract from the government agency.
“This offer is not a deferment, but a definitive and permanent waiver of these payments. This offer gives time for government stocks to bounce back,” Bezos said in an open letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
In April, NASA awarded Elon Musk’s SpaceX a single $2.89 billion contract to build the next manned lunar probe under its Human Landing Systems program.
“Instead of this single-source approach, NASA should adopt the original competition strategy,” Bezos said. “Without competition, soon, NASA will see your company with limited options as it tries to negotiate missed deadlines or design changes.
Bezos and fellow billionaire Richard Branson were the only two big entrepreneurs in the business of pushing tourists to the edge of space. Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which also recently completed a crewed flight.
The tourism market is just one component of the space economy valued at no less than $420 billion. Still, its high profile means it has a powerful and far-reaching influence over the space industry, with investors often pointing to astronaut flights as a source of excitement.
“Blue Origin has sold nearly $100 million in tickets for its future passenger flights,” Bezos said last week. The company is actively working on building more rockets to fly more often.