Blue Origin, headed by Jeff Bezos, has protested NASA's decision to grant SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to build a human-lander device that would return astronauts to the moon.

According to the protest, Blue Origin asked the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) to halt NASA's contract with SpaceX and fix "errors" in the procurement process.

Blue Origin suggested that if not for those issues, NASA would have chosen its application, which was submitted by a team that included Lockheed Martin Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp., and Draper, an engineering and avionics company.

Jeff Bezos Unveils Blue Origin Lunar Lander
(Photo: Daniel Oberhaus / Wikimedia Commons)

"NASA has executed a flawed acquisition for the Human Landing System program and moved the goalposts at the last minute," Blue Origin said Monday in a statement accompanying the challenge to NASA's decision.

"Their decision eliminates opportunities for competition, significantly narrows the supply base, and not only delays, but also endangers America's return to the moon."

Bloomberg said the protest opens a new front in a fight for government contracts as Blue Origin tries to catch up to Space Exploration Technologies Corp., which is already a near NASA affiliate.

ALSO READ: Blue Origin, NASA Collaborate to Re-Create Moon-like Gravity in Rockets Set for Artemis Missions 

Why Did NASA Allow SpaceX to Update Payment Plan?

According to the New York Times, Blue Origin's chief executive Bob Smith objected to NASA for allowing SpaceX to update its payment plan to work "under NASA's existing budget."

According to Bezos' rocket manufacturer, based on NASA's appraisal of the plans, the Blue Origin-led team bid $5.99 billion against $2.91 billion for SpaceX. The final prize was $2.89 billion for a landing demonstration without crew and another with astronauts.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA)  decision, according to Blue Origin, puts the country's return to the moon at risk due to its dependence on a single supplier. Blue Origin said this leaves NASA at the mercy of SpaceX's ability to work out how to fly its Starship and Super Heavy booster considering the company's approach's difficulty.

Due to continuing lawsuits, NASA declined to comment. A SpaceX official has yet to comment as of writing. But Elon Musk made a joke in a tweet as he replied to a New York Times reporter. Musk played off because Blue Origin had failed to reach orbit with either of its rockets.

About HLS Program

The Human Landing System (HLS) is a core component of NASA's plans to return astronauts to the moon's surface as soon as 2024. They will use new Space Launch System heavy-lift rockets operated by Boeing, Lockheed Martin-built Orion crew capsules, and a miniature, privately constructed lunar space station known as Gateway.

CBS News said astronauts could either pass straight to the current lunar lander for the descent to the surface or use Gateway as a test platform and way station while in orbit around the moon.

NASA is planning landings near the moon's south pole, where permanently shadowed craters could contain ice deposits that could be mined and turned into rocket fuel, air, and water in the future.

The HLS device is a private project in which the spacecraft will be constructed, owned, and controlled by the builder for NASA, unlike the lunar landers developed for the Apollo mission, owned by NASA and operated by contractors under strict government supervision.

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