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Blue Origin protest over NASA's lunar lander contract denied in court

With the bid denied, and the selection of SpaceX upheld, NASA says it will resume work under the contract "as soon as possible."

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — NASA says work can resume on the next lunar lander after the U.S. Court of Federal Claims denied Blue Origin's bid protest claiming the spacecraft's contract was wrongly awarded to SpaceX.

The company filed the complaint on Aug.13, saying the nation's top space agency completed an "unlawful and improper evaluation of proposals" when it gave Blue Origin's competitor the $2.89 billion Human Landing System contract.

Under the contract, SpaceX will get to build the spacecraft set to carry astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time in 50 years when astronaut Harrison Schmitt became the last U.S. person to step foot on the Moon in 1972.

With the bid denied, and the selection of SpaceX upheld, NASA says it will resume work under the contract "as soon as possible."

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Due to the tie-up in court, the Artemis mission, which will land the first woman on the Moon by 2024, could potentially miss its deadline, according to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

Jeff Bezos, who founded Blue Origin, responded to the court's decision in a Twitter post:

"Not the decision we wanted, but we respect the court’s judgment, and wish full success for NASA and SpaceX on the contract," he wrote.

Prior to filing the complaint in court, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos also penned a letter to Nelson offering a $2 billion discount to get NASA to change its single lunar lander development selection.

"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 time.

Blue Origin along with Dynetics, another company initially in the running for the contract, also filed protests with U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) over NASA's decision. 

All of which have been to no avail.

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According to NASA, the human landing system will allow for the exploration of new technology that could help the agency land on Mars and other planets in the future.

While SpaceX is the sole contract winner for now, due to an "overall strategy" and budget constraints, earlier this year NASA said it will start having industry discussions about how to further develop additional competition on a future services contract.

“As soon as possible, NASA will provide an update on the way ahead for Artemis, the human landing system, and humanity’s return to the Moon," the space agency wrote.

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