The two richest men in the world are on a collision course! Musk or Bezos, who will be the first to put an American astronaut on the moon?

The two richest men in the world are on a collision course! Musk or Bezos, who will be the first to put an American astronaut on the moon?

The rivalry between Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos is already fierce, and now the two are taking their rivalry to the moon, where they are competing fiercely over who gets to put NASA astronauts on the moon.

Last week, Musk’s space exploration technology company SpaceX warned that legislation currently being considered by Congress to exclusively reward “Bezos with $10 billion” would hamstring NASA’s plans to go to the moon and cede the space initiative.

Blue Origin, the space company led by Bezos, quickly pushed back. “Lies”. “Lies.” “Lies.” The company said this about each of SpaceX’s allegations, adding, “What the hell is Musk afraid of …… a little competition?”

Musk and Bezos, who both rank among the richest people in the world, have been battling for years over the commercialization of space exploration, and the above statement is the latest example of their fierce rivalry. Musk and Bezos have battled over who gets to use a launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, a patent related to recovering rockets, and who actually achieved the feat of rocket recovery first.

On top of that, SpaceX under Musk and Amazon under Bezos have repeatedly competed to put thousands of Internet satellites into orbit.

Now, they are in a rivalry over who can send NASA astronauts to the surface of the moon.

Last month, SpaceX won a big contract from NASA to build a lunar spacecraft to carry astronauts to and from the moon’s surface for the latter’s Artemis lunar landing program. Blue Origin and its partners Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper “national team” in the first round of bidding won the first place. But no one but NASA could have predicted that SpaceX would end up beating not only Blue Origin, but also Dynetics, another bidder.

Both losing bidders almost immediately called out the violation and protested to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, saying the procurement process was flawed. But Blue Origin took a bigger step by lobbying Congress to let NASA sign two contracts for the so-called “lunar landing system” (HLS).

Last week, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-CA), chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, added to the American Innovation and Competition Act proposal to require NASA to enter into two contracts and said Congress should allocate $10 billion for both contracts.

The amendment has been referred to committee and will be voted on in the Senate. To become official law, the proposal must still be voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives, and $10 billion is not chump change at the moment. In recent days, the debate has continued over an amended bill that says the NASA Administrator cannot “modify, terminate, or rescind” the SpaceX contract.

The two richest men in the world are on a collision course! Musk or Bezos, who will be the first to put an American astronaut on the moon?

Nonetheless, Cantwell’s proposed amendment underscores that Bezos is highly influential. Amazon was one of Cantwell’s largest sources of donations during her tenure as senator. Cantwell represents Washington state, which is where Amazon and Blue Origin are headquartered.

Blue Origin has also been expanding its reach in recent years. Blue Origin spent nearly $2 million on lobbying last year, up from more than $400,000 in 2015, according to OpenSecrets, which tracks spending. A committee affiliated with the company contributed $320,000 in 2020, up from $22,000 in 2016.

The amendment quickly became another point of contention between the two companies. spaceX preemptively stated, “Cantwell’s proposed amendment undermines the government procurement process, is giving Bezos a $10 billion single-source subsidy, and NASA’s Artemis program will face years of strife.”

SpaceX added: “Blue Origin and its contractors proposed a worse solution at more than twice the price of the winning contract and therefore lost the bid for the HLS.” SpaceX added that despite winning the contract itself, the proposed amendment “effectively creates a single-source subsidy for Blue Origin that does not violate the Competition in Contracting Act.”

SpaceX said Blue Origin has received hundreds of millions of dollars in initial contracts from NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense, but that the agencies “have chosen not to renew their contracts with Blue Origin after each major program launch.”

SpaceX said Blue Origin “has not yet built a rocket or spacecraft that can go into orbit,” which SpaceX CEO Musk also highlighted on his personal social media accounts, saying that Blue Origin “can’t even lift off (into orbit). “.

Blue Origin responded by saying, “Musk has repeatedly talked about the value of competition, but on NASA’s Lunar Landing System project, he wants to have it all to himself.” The statement also noted that Musk had sued the U.S. Air Force for the right to compete with United Launch Alliance (ULA) for U.S. Department of Defense launch contracts.

Blue Origin called SpaceX’s claim that the amendment was a dedicated subsidy for Blue Origin a “lie” and said the amendment would allow two teams to build the moon spacecraft. “The two suppliers can promote competition through different redundancy approaches to ensure the safety of the lunar spacecraft and the success of the lunar mission, while also helping to control costs.”

In a statement, Blue Origin said NASA “treated each bidder differently” in its bid by allowing SpaceX to “re-price the bids based on new budget information provided to it separately by NASA.”

Blue Origin said NASA’s bias toward SpaceX was not limited to this. In its protest to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Blue Origin also accused NASA of wrongly downgrading several technical design criteria that the agency had “reviewed, approved and accepted. Blue Origin added that choosing only SpaceX “is the ‘enormous complexity’ and ‘high risk’ that NASA documents, and the risk of a U.S. return to the moon depends entirely on the solutions SpaceX proposes ‘s solution – an interstellar spacecraft and the ability to deliver a new super heavy booster.”

NASA said it was trying to sign two contracts, but only had the money to execute one. Initially NASA said that “the budget for the current fiscal year does not support awarding even one contract.” As a result, SpaceX was able to revise the payment schedule for bids totaling about $2.9 billion to match “the current budget available to NASA.”

NASA noted that SpaceX’s new payment schedule “does not reduce the overall price” and that SpaceX “is not allowed to change the technical and management aspects of the program. According to NASA, SpaceX’s “management score” is also higher than Blue Origin’s.

The two richest men in the world are on a collision course! Musk or Bezos, who will be the first to put an American astronaut on the moon?

Musk and Bezos’ space companies were founded almost simultaneously. Blue Origin was founded in 2000, SpaceX only two years later. But SpaceX has progressed much faster and achieved much more. in 2008, SpaceX put its first rocket into orbit and subsequently won lucrative contracts from NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense. NASA relies on SpaceX to deliver supplies to the International Space Station; and since last year, SpaceX has launched three manned missions to the ISS.

Blue Origin, on the other hand, is moving forward at a slow pace, like the company’s mascot, the turtle. Although it has launched its New Shepard launch vehicle 15 times and is preparing for its first manned mission, the rocket has never reached orbit. So far, the New Shepard rocket has only touched the 100-kilometer edge of space and then returned to Earth.

After losing a lucrative U.S. Defense Department contract, Blue Origin said the maiden flight of its New Glenn rocket, capable of sending payloads into Earth orbit, would be delayed until later next year. Bezos initially said the new Glenn rocket would be operational in 2020.

Bezos had said he would step down as Amazon’s chief executive later this year. And many in the space community, including Musk, have said they want Bezos to focus more on Blue Origin.

At a conference in 2019, SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell criticized Blue Origin for its slow progress.

Shotwell said, “I think that when engineers are pushed to achieve ambitious goals in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of resources, they can turn on their brains, and that’s nothing like spending 20 years doing something.” “I don’t think there’s motivation in that situation.”

Access to orbit has always been a point of competition between the two companies, and in 2013, when SpaceX was in talks with NASA about leasing Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, Blue Origin stepped in and said it wanted a chance to compete for the pad’s use.

That angered Musk, who said Blue Origin had not yet been able to put a rocket into orbit. If they can develop a manned spacecraft that can dock with the International Space Station and meet NASA standards within the next five years, we’d be happy to accommodate them,” Musk said in an email. After all, that’s what Launch Pad 39A is all about.”

But he added, “Frankly, I think it’s more likely that we’ll find only one unicorn dancing alone in the fire.”

The following year, Blue Origin was granted a patent to allow rocket boosters to land on the ship. It was a feat that SpaceX had been trying to perfect and that others had conceived. spaceX challenged the patent and won. Musk said in an interview at the time, “It’s obviously absurd to patent something that people have been talking about for half a century.”

Another year, Blue Origin successfully recovered the New Shepard rocket, which Bezos called “a rare beast – a used rocket” in a personal social media post.

Musk replied in a tweet, “Not a ‘new thing’.” He noted that SpaceX had previously sent rockets several hundred meters into the air and successfully landed them.

The second month after that, when SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket made its first successful booster recovery, Bezos wrote on his personal social media account, “Welcome to the club!” Musk didn’t take that as a compliment, as the Falcon 9 rocket performed much better than the New Shepard rocket, which returned the payload to Earth after putting it into orbit.

Musk made another statement earlier this month when a SpaceX prototype interplanetary spacecraft successfully landed. It was the first fully successful test flight of a prototype Starship since SpaceX won the contract for the lunar landing system, showing that the company is serious about developing a real spacecraft to the moon.

SpaceX will probably make another statement after this prototype spacecraft re-lifts and lands successfully. Musk recently said that a test flight of the prototype spacecraft could be coming “soon” and that SpaceX also plans to send the Starship into orbit later this year.

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