NASA has put on hold the ambitious lunar lander contract. The contract was awarded to private aerospace company SpaceX. SpaceX is owned by Elon Musk. NASA has asked SpaceX to suspend the work on the lunar lander. The development comes after Blue Origin sued NASA. Blue Origin is owned by Jeff Bezos. The company has filed a lawsuit against NASA’s decision to award the lunar lander contract to SpaceX. The contract worth USD 3 billion has been suspended by NASA for the second time. Earlier, the space agency had put the contract on hold after Blue Origin and Dynetics had moved to the Government Accountability Office against the awarding of the contract.
Reports say that NASA has voluntarily decided to suspend the contract temporarily. The suspension will remain in place till November 1. Blue Origin and Dynetics had earlier said that NASA’s selection procedure was not fair. This forced NASA to suspend the contract. NASA granted a go-ahead to SpaceX after the Government Accountability Office cleared it. It squashed Blue Origin’s challenge. The GAO in its ruling said that NASA complied with contracting law in deciding the awarding of the contract. Both Blue Origin and Dynetics were also bidding for the lunar lander contract. Dynetics is an IT firm. Its major clients are NASA and the Department of Defense. The lunar lander contract is a part of the Artemis program that will see humans returning to the Moon after 50 years.
Blue Origin in its lawsuit has asked urged for pausing the contract. It said that the lawsuit will create competition and ensure fairness in the awarding of the contract. According to Blue Origin, NASA violated its own procedure while making the selection. NASA had earlier hinted that it will select two lunar lander prototypes for development. It was likely that both SpaceX and Blue Origin will get a chance. But the funding cut by the US Congress forced the space agency to pick one between SpaceX over Blue Origin. The latest lawsuit is likely to cause further delay in launching the Artemis program. The agency has will launch three Moon-bound spacecraft under the Artemis program in 2021, 2023, and 2024. The last one will take two humans including the first woman to Moon. This will be the first crewed Moon mission after Apollo 17 which was launched in 1972.