For those of us closely following the new space race — the one between Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, not the United States and Communist China — watching Bezos’s well-funded Blue Origin flounder year after year has been a huge disappointment.
Not because we’re pro-Bezos or anti-Musk, but because we really want everyone to succeed.
You see, we space nuts understand that there’s room for literally everyone in space, and the more launch capacity we develop, the sooner we become a deep space-faring and deep space-living species.
But here we are, 21 years (almost to the day) after Bezos put billions of his own money into Blue Origin, and the company has yet to lift a single gram into orbit.
That’s why it was no surprise back in April when NASA selected SpaceX over BO to design and build the next-generation lunar human-landing vehicle.
It’s a juicy six-billion dollar contract for one of the highest-profile space projects in history: America’s return to the Moon. Not just to visit, either, but to begin work on a permanent settlement.
When billionaire’s egos are on the line, the stakes go even higher.
For our VIPs: Solving the Mystery of Blue Origin’s Failure to Launch
That’s probably why Bezos came crawling back to NASA with an offer to spend $2 billion of his own money on Blue Origin’s lander. That’s probably why Bezos is now crawling like a snake through the legal system to stymie the SpaceX program.
But how could NASA trust the development of a manned lunar spaceship to a company that has yet to put even a tiny satellite in orbit like the Soviets accomplished for the first time 64 years ago?
Now imagine what Bezos and his billionaire ego must feel like now that NASA has announced Blue Origin’s consolation prize? A puny $26 million to develop a lunar lander concept that might, someday, possibly lead to building an actual landing system.
Oh, and Blue Origin is only one of five companies selected to produce not much more than drawings of what will likely remain vaporware.
“Thanks for playing, Jeff. If you’d like to try again in a few years, here’s a contract worth 0.0043% of the one you wanted and it’s not even to build anything real.”
The sad fact is, Blue Origin has excelled at producing some fabulous concept art, but as a taxpaying American first and a space nut second, I’m thinking that $26 million for a non-orbiting launch company to produce even more concept art is a bit steep.