Lunar Lander Deal Paused After Bid Protests


The unsuccessful bidders in NASA’s lunar lander contract have protested the award to SpaceX so the process is on hold until the Government Accountability Office assesses the protests. NASA announced two weeks ago that SpaceX had been awarded a $2.9 billion contract to build the vehicle that will return astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1974. The contract award became immediately controversial, largely because the contract was expected to go to two of the three bidders. The two companies left out, Dynetics and Blue Origin, cried foul.

“Pursuant to the GAO protests, NASA instructed SpaceX that progress on the HLS contract has been suspended until GAO resolves all outstanding litigation related to this procurement,” NASA spokeswoman Monica Witt said in a statement. Bid documents revealed that SpaceX vastly undercut its competitors’ prices and offered flexibility on the payment terms. The suspension means SpaceX won’t get its first draws on the contract or even be able to talk to NASA about next steps until the GAO signs off.

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    • Wikipedia – Helium-3 isotope: Unlike most nuclear fission reactions, the fusion of helium-3 atoms releases large amounts of energy without causing the surrounding material to become radioactive.

      Google results – Helium-3: Unlike Earth, which is protected by its magnetic field, the Moon has been bombarded with large quantities of Helium-3 by the solar wind.

      • Klaipeda, I hope you were not serious.

        FIRST you gotta invent a hydrogen fusion reactor. Next it has to generate more energy than it consumes. Next it has to be commercially viable. Next you have to justify spaceflight to collect fuel?

  1. I hate to say it but the reality is IF we wanted a lunar lander and IF we wanted a private contractor Space X is probably the best available company to produce it.

    With that said I think it is a waste of (our tax) money

  2. I can understand if one is of the mind that all human spaceflight represents a waste of effort & resources then going back to the moon obviously would be too. Otherwise, it would seem utilizing a nearby body to further test and advance the necessary hardware & techniques for longer human spaceflight is eminently logical.

    Viewing the subject more broadly, both individually and collectively we humans do a lot of things that don’t immediately produce concrete returns simply because they are things which speak to our inner needs. I’m good with that; the idea of humanity aspiring to just sit around and exist while we wait for the sun to die seems terribly depressing to me.

    • “to further test and advance the necessary hardware & techniques for longer human spaceflight is eminently logical.”

      The Apollo missions were never logical; they were funded on pure politics of beating the Russians. If you think that vast political spending to put a handful of lives into mortal danger is what gives humanity hope; I beg to differ.

  3. Not a surprise, but seems like the protests will have little chance. The protesting companies’ bids were unaffordable, underperforming (in Dynetics case unable to deliver any payload at all!), and lacked the growth potential desired.

    • Also, Congress didn’t give NASA enough money to pick two of the contenders. SpaceX agreed to get paid later because they are developing the vehicle with or without NASA. If it’s true that NASA approached the others with a similar deal but was rejected, then the have little grounds to sue.

  4. We need to have a permanent base on the moon so we can go out and find that monolith! 😉

    Seriously though, if you think that establishing a moon base (or any manned space exploration) is a waste of money, then don’t complain when China is the only nation with a permanent moon base. Make no mistake, we are in another space race, except this time it is with the Chinese. China has already done something that neither the US nor the Russians ever did, land a robotic probe on the far side of the moon. That doesn’t sound like much, but it shows their intent to be a player in space exploration, starting with the moon.

    For those who say that space exploration is just a political side show, it has always been thus. The major powers of Europe sent ships to the New World in an effort to show dominance in the new realm. Once they determined there were things of value to be had, Spain, Britain and France all worked hard to establish bases to occupy as much territory as possible. But, politics and world dominance were the driving forces in their efforts. Granted, conditions were much more amenable to supporting human life (I.e. air and water), but no less deadly. Half of the occupants on the Mayflower died within the first year of landing in the New World. And, if you think the money could be better spent elsewhere, NASA’s total budget is a small fraction of what is spent on the military or social programs every year, and manned exploration is only a subset of that amount. Considering ROI, I think NASA provides a pretty good bang for their bucks in that arena.

    Humans always have been, and always will be, explorers. As a species, we are going into space, whether America leads, follows or totally abstains from the effort. If we are going to participate, we might as well lead.