NASA's return to the Moon is facing even more delays thanks to Blue Origin's recent lawsuit against the space agency. After it was revealed at the start of this week that Jeff Bezos is suing NASA for awarding its lunar lander contract to competitor Elon Musk's SpaceX instead of his own Blue Origin, NASA has agreed to temporarily pause any work on the lander until November 1 while the US Court of Federal Claims investigates.
A judge has set a hearing for October 14, meaning work by SpaceX on the Human Lander System that will take astronauts to the surface of the Moon as part of the Artemis mission has been stopped. NASA already faces a delay to the proposed 2024 mission date due to issues with new spacesuits not being ready; now the derailment is down to legal reasons as the billionaire space race takes a prohibitive turn.
“NASA has voluntarily paused work with SpaceX for the human landing system (HLS) Option A contract effective Aug. 19 through Nov. 1. In exchange for this temporary stay of work, all parties agreed to an expedited litigation schedule that concludes on Nov. 1,” NASA said in a statement to SpaceNews. “NASA officials are continuing to work with the Department of Justice to review the details of the case and look forward to a timely resolution of this matter.”
Earlier this month, Bezos lost his appeal to the US Government Accountability Office challenging NASA on its decision to choose just one company to award a contract for the lander, the cheaper SpaceX, instead of two companies as it had originally stated it would. When NASA chose SpaceX's $2.89 billion proposal instead of Blue Origin's $5.99 billion pitch, Bezos accused NASA of giving SpaceX an unfair advantage by allowing it to revise its price after a change to NASA's budget.
Production of the landing vehicle has been halted since April when Bezos filed his first official complaint.
NASA's decision to work with commercial partners was to reduce budgets and time and increase sustainability in the production of crucial technology to bring humans back to the Moon. The irony now is that NASA's plans to return to the Moon are being delayed with every step.