His rocket company Blue Origin launched its first human flight on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and Bezos was on it.
At the time, Bezos was still the richest man in the world, but since then the billionaires’ space race has become rather one-sided with Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the clear lead.
A huge NASA contract seems to be the factor that tipped the scales in Musk’s favor.
In April 2021, NASA awarded SpaceX an exclusive contract for $2.9 billion to use its spacecraft to take astronauts from orbit to the moon’s surface. It had defeated Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics, both of whom had submitted proposals for the lunar lander contract.
This came as a surprise, as the space agency was originally expected to award the contract to two of the three companies. NASA defended its decision to give the lucrative contract to one company by citing Congress’ lower-than-expected budget allocation for the program.
In July, Blue Origin and Dynetics filed a protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), saying: refused.
“SpaceX submitted the cheapest, highest-rated proposal and Blue Origin and Dynetics’ offers were significantly higher in price,” the GAO said in a statement. press release.
After this, Jeff Bezos told in a open letter NASA’s Bill Nelson offered to cover up to $2 billion in costs to build a lander that would take astronauts to the moon in exchange for a contract to build the device.
When none of the attempts worked, Blue Origin even sued NASA with a lawsuit it claimed would “restore justice, create competition and ensure a safe return to the moon for America.”
The race to space for billionaires officially turned in Musk’s favor last November, when a US federal judge dismissed Bezos’ lawsuit against NASA.
Since then, it has gone full steam ahead for SpaceX, with a total of 169 launches, 131 landings and 107 flights. The company routinely launches five to six missions per month.
In comparison, Blue Origin has only 21 successful missions to its name. Last month, Bezos’ space company completed its fifth human spaceflight and 21st flight for its New Shepard program.
SpaceX has completed seven manned missions thanks to its partnership with NASA. In April, SpaceX launched its fourth astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS), the second manned launch in less than three weeks.
However, space is not child’s play, because SpaceX suffered a major setback last week when a booster rocket for its Starship spacecraft went up in flames during a ground test.
The spacecraft is central to NASA’s plans to return to the moon and to Musk’s mission to make humans an “interplanetary species,” starting with Mars.
Musk is still confident that his new spacecraft will reach space this year. In June, SpaceX proposed The Super Heavy missile program at Boca Chica received environmental approval pending dozens of conditions.
Sir Richard Branson, the other billionaire whose one-year anniversary of the spaceflight to space also happened this month, seems to have nearly fallen off the space race map.
But last week, his space company Virgin Galactic announced it was building new spaceship production facilities in America. These facilities would have the capacity to produce up to six spaceships per year, according to a pronunciation from the company.
The first of these spaceships is expected to fly by the end of 2025 and evolve into private flights for astronauts by 2026.
Either way, the race is steadily progressing, even as Musk’s SpaceX is miles ahead of the competition.
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