Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have been exchanging the title of the world’s richest person lately as the stock value of their respective main businesses (Amazon and Tesla) fluctuates. On the private side, the two centibillionaires’ space ventures are also in a heated competition—to build a human-landing vehicle on the moon for NASA.
NASA in April selected SpaceX as the sole contractor for this project under the agency’s Human Landing Systems (HLS) program. Bezos has vehemently protested the decision since then, asking NASA to hire Blue Origin as a second contractor to promote competition.
Late last month, Bezos offered in an open letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson to waive up to $2 billion in future payments Blue Origin is entitled from NASA under existing contracts if the agency would award a separate lunar lander contract to his company.
While NASA hasn’t responded, Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said in a statement to The Washington Post this week that the company is “hopeful that NASA will take advantage of our offer.”
Reacting to the latest development, Musk on Wednesday tweeted a mocking photo of a deflated Blue Origin moon lander prototype and captioned, “Somehow, this wasn’t convincing…”
The photo, which appears to be taken at a Blue Origin event, was originally posted on Reddit in 2019 with the title “Deflated Blue Balls.”
Before Bezos’ open letter, Blue Origin had filed a complaint with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), accusing NASA of violating its procurement strategy and hampering competition by selecting only one HLS contractor. The GAO later ruled that NASA had run a fair competition. But Blue Origin didn’t give up.
On Wednesday, The Washington Post space reporter Christian Davenport tweeted that Blue Origin is considering taking the case to the Court of Federal Claims. Musk’s photo was in response to that tweet.
“We firmly believe that the issues identified with NASA’s lunar procurement and its outcomes must be address to create competition and ensure a safe return to the moon for America. We continue to point out the issues in the prior selection process,” Smith said in his statement.
“The HLS fight may continue [to] be intense, though the GAO’s verdict was fairly definitive,” Davenport tweeted. “But I still bet Elon wishes Jeff were spending more time on getting Blue to orbit. As he said in April, ‘I think he needs to run BO full-time for it to be successful. Frankly, I hope he does.'”