back to article Bezos offers to knock $2bn off his bill to NASA to stay in the running for Moon contract

Blue Origins supremo Jeff Bezos has offered NASA a $2bn discount to keep his dream alive of transporting the next American man and first woman to the Moon's surface. Earlier this year, the contract for the Human Landing System (HLS), the craft that will put a crew on the Moon as part of NASA’s lunar Artemis program, was solely …

  1. IGotOut Silver badge

    Dear Astronaut.

    How does it feel to be sent in a ship made by the lowest bidder.

    1. John Doe 12

      Re: Dear Astronaut.

      Had to Google the original quote as it made me smile when I first read it:

      ‘I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of 2 million parts — all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract.’— Attributed to John Glenn

      1. JWLong Bronze badge

        Re: Dear Astronaut.

        2 Million parts and a million pounds of fuel.

        And, they (the astronauts) got the window they wanted installed also!

        NASA soon learned that their astronauts engineering degrees should be respected. Unlike today when field engineers tell OEM manufacturers that their tat is pure shit.

    2. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Dear Astronaut.

      Rockhound : You know we're sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good, doesn't it?

    3. gandalfcn Silver badge

      Re: Dear Astronaut.

      And subsidised by taxpayers and underpaid employees.

  2. eldakka Silver badge

    Blue Origins supremo Jeff Bezos has offered NASA a $2bn discount

    To me, this can be taken in only one of two ways:

    1) the original tender amount offered was in bad faith by $2bn - i.e. they were asking for $2bn more than needed; or,

    2) they are now offering in bad faith less than cost to win the tender, with the plan of intentionally inflating costs over time to the project to be able to bill that extra $2bn to NASA as planned cost overruns.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      From my understandng the original NASA contract said they wanted the bidder to commit some of their own money to the cost of designing & building the vehicles.

      SpaceX replied saying "See those rockets we're building and flying over in Texas....?"

      Bezos' bid, being run by traditional companies, rubbed their hands in glee at the thought of another lucrative cost-plus government contract.

      1. Def Silver badge

        Yeah, there's absolutely nothing stopping Bezos from independently developing a complete lunar launch/lander system apart from the fact that he has absolutely no fucking imagination or passion. All he sees is money making potential.

        1. gandalfcn Silver badge

          There's a good piece in huffpost about his tax and employee wages as well

    2. Justthefacts

      To be fair

      The article says Firm Fixed Price, not Cost Plus.

      So, underbidding doesn’t allow later price increase.

      Trying to second guess the right price to prevent “unfair profits” is what got us into the Cost Plus disease, not the cure

      1. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: To be fair

        > The article says Firm Fixed Price, not Cost Plus.

        Correct, but that applies only if it is 100% to specification.

        For example, when delivered, NASA might ask for a wall mounting to be moved 2cm to the right - oh, thats a variation to the contract, that'll be $150m if you want that.

        You want that warning light to be flashing red instead of solid red? Sure, that'll be $20m for contract variation.

        The specifications said 9atmospheres, but you want 9.2? Sure, that'll be $500m thanks.

        1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

          Re: To be fair

          I was involved in a project where we discovered that a slip of the pen had resulted in the wrong type of cable specified. The lawyers told us it was cheaper to let the contractors install the cable, then pay someone to pull it out, throw it away and install the correct one, than it was to vary the contract specification by one word. (The material cost difference between the cables was close to zero)

          1. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: To be fair

            This reminds me of a story a Naval Officer (actual navy and vessel classes being omitted to stop anyone getting in trouble) friend of mine told me.

            In a new ship class from the 90's, the specification for the brightness (candle-power I think it was) for the bridge-wing searchlights accidentally had an extra '0' added in, so the searchlights ordered were an order of magnitude brighter than wanted.

            This resulted in extremely expensive searchlight bulbs (and the searchlights themselves to handle the extra heat). The bulbs were custom made for this class due to the extra '0'. The gas in the manufactured bulbs was at such a high pressure, that replacement bulbs had to be treated and handled as dangerous explosives. The pressure was such that dropping one was like letting a hand-grenade off, shards of glass would go flying at high velocities for 10's of metre's and could most certainly kill someone nearby.

            The searchlights were so powerful, that my friend used phrases like "could light up the cliffs at ********** from 20km out to sea". and that they could "boil the paint off any nearby anchored ship they shone them on".

  3. HildyJ Silver badge
    Pint

    It's all about Elon

    Jeff can't stand that Elon's getting all the glory. He's willing to put up 1% of his fortune to, he hopes, correct this.

    I suspect that his original bid was inflated but his offer seems to be a good option, especially since he stated that he "will accept a firm, fixed-priced contract for this work, cover any system development cost overruns, and shield NASA from partner cost escalation concerns.”

    I say let him and Elon build their giant penises and have an outer space pissing match.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: It's all about Elon

      I say let him and Elon build their giant penises and have an outer space pissing match.

      That really doesn't sound like a bad idea. They build, NASA tests and decides which one goes into space and gets paid. But then Bezos might have a plan to use Amazon workers and pay rates to build it.

    2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: It's all about Elon

      Use the ambulance-chasing lawyer approach: no win, no fee.

      Bezos can fund the development himself; if his solution is earlier &/or better than Elon's, he gets paid. If not, he can suck it up.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: It's all about Elon

      "I say let him and Elon build their giant penises and have an outer space pissing match."

      Would that not create "Earth rings", like Saturn has?

  4. JDPower666

    Given how long its taking Blue Origin to build an actual rocket that goes into space for more than a couple of minutes, I'm not sure I'd wanna be sat on a rocket made by the same tardy company, ESPECIALLY when tardilly building in a way that cuts costs/corners to beat a fellow billionaire in a willy waving contest.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Bezos talks about 'competive' although he has already lost to SpaceX who won because they competed better, i.e. produced the goods in time.

      Blue Origin now expects to buy their way back into a competition they have already failed at?

      Sounds like a recent president who couldn't accept the election results.

      If Bezos had any class he would stop bleating and develop and perfect his kit in spite of the competition, thereby proving his kit is a winner.

      You know, like putting some money where his mouth is.

      If Blue Origin is genuinely good, perhaps there are other private investors who would like to be a part of it.

    2. Irongut

      This sentence is hillarious and I'm sure Tory Bruno (ULA CEO) will agree:

      "Without competition, a short time into the contract, NASA will find itself with limited options as it attempts to negotiate missed deadlines, design changes, and cost overruns. Without competition, NASA’s short-term and long-term lunar ambitions will be delayed, will ultimately cost more, and won’t serve the national interest."

      BO are years late with the expensive BE-4 engine which has lead to delays with their New Glenn rocket and the first flights of ULA's Vulcan rocket which replaces the venerable but Russian engine powered Atlas V. Blue Origin and the BE-4 have "missed deadlines, design changes, and cost overruns", ULA's ambitions have been delayed and they have harmed "the national interest."

      Also bear in mind Blue Origin was started before SpaceX, now lets compare how many successful launches to orbit both companies have made. ROFL

  5. vektorweg

    Jeff learned it at Amazon's

    Subsidize your product until the competition dies. Then exploit the market.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've got a curious idea.

    How about Bezos, Musk et al pay their fair share of taxes then the government can decide how best to allocate the spending based on public need rather than a billionaires whim....

    1. PerlyKing Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: a curious idea

      And what do you get when you do that? The SLS program.

      American spending on space is a drop in the bucket compared to their entire federal budget (NASA is the little red square at the bottom right).

    2. Irongut

      They would spend the vast majority of those taxes on guns and oppressing their own populace. Spending on things like space and science is dwarfed by spending on redundant aircraft carriers (how many times more than the rest of the world combined is enough?) and militarising the police.

  7. Clive Galway

    "That decision broke the mold of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come"

    Riiight, because before SpaceX there was meaningful competition

  8. You aint sin me, roit Silver badge
    Devil

    Just do it

    Oi, Jeff, stop quibbling over a couple of billion and just do it.

    Maybe NASA will buy it from you when it's finished... maybe you'll have to fund yourself all the way to the moon.

    Think of all the patches you could sew onto your space overalls!

  9. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    I used to think Bezos wanted many people living and working in space

    NASA will find itself with limited options as it attempts to negotiate missed deadlines, design changes, and cost overruns.

    For commercial crew, congress demonstrated their ability to reduce the rate on funding below the agreed amount. This caused the opportunity for cost overruns for NASA to attempt to negotiate. Lack of funding (and CC funding diverted to SLS) caused NASA to miss deadlines for their side of the deal which impacted both contractors. Boeing designed their capsule for a "simple" (as rocket science gets) approval process. SpaceX's initial design was more ambitious but got trimmed back to fit the approval process that NASA could afford to take part in.

    Congress will have many budgets to trim, delay and divert funding. This will give NASA ample opportunities to negotiate missed deadlines, design changes and cost overruns. Bezos has got this exactly right: adding $10B $8B to Artemis funding requirements will ease the stated limitations on congress/NASA.

    Without competition, NASA’s short-term and long-term lunar ambitions will be delayed, will ultimately cost more, and won’t serve the national interest.

    NASA's ambitions can be delayed with or without competition. Musk is building a Mars rocket for himself and a Lunar version of it with a firm fixed price for NASA. The National Team is offering a jobs program (federal taxes->47 states). Which is more in the National Team's interest is a matter of personal congress's opinion.

    Imagine you have enough excess wealth to become a Lunar tourist. Here are you options:

    Option M: There is a "flight tested" Lunar Starship near the Moon. Multiple Tanker Starship filghts will refuel a Tanker Starship in LEO which will go to the Lunar Starship and refuel it. Multiple Tanker Starship flights will refuel a Tanker Starship in LEO. A roomy luxury Crew Starship with plenty of space for a dozen tourists goes to LEO, gets refuelled and then goes to the Lunar Starship. The Lunar Starship takes tourists to the Moon and back to the Crew Starship. The Crew Starship goes back to Earth and lands the same way all the Tanks Starships did. Wild guess at a per ticket price: probably over $100M but much less than $1B.

    Option B: The National Team's ride to near the Moon and back is an cramped Orion capsule (rated for two flights) launched on an SLS (dumped into the sea) for a cost of $3B. That gets you and 3 other really close friends to the Lunar Gateway. NASA will charge you money for your stay there and for any consumables used (probably delivered by SpaceX). The small Lunar Descent, Lander, Ascent stack requires a (some?) New Glenn launches (first stage reusable!) to get to the Lunar Gateway. If you want to fly before New Glenn is ready then your smaller ride to the Moon will require three launches of expandable rockets ($$$) and some assembly required (by tourists!). You get to the Moon and your ascent stage is too heavy to get back. You will have to unbolt some bits of it and leave them behind. Back to Gateway (a bit cramped) and then back into the really cramped Orion for several days with your friends on you way back to Earth. SLS is limited to one flight per year with the possibility that lots of tax payers money will double the production rate. The good news is the ticket price will limit the length of the queue.

    The fear used to be that the rush to the Moon would cause a flags and foot prints mission instead of a sustained exploration program. With $8B added to the bill I am not sure there will be money left over for flags.

  10. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Sending a blue dildo to the moon

    The moon may object.

    Bezos is worth $212bn. That's 10 years of NASA funding. He could launch a space program on his own. Does he really need more taxpayers' money?

    1. Timbo

      Re: Sending a blue dildo to the moon

      "He could launch a space program on his own."

      Exactly....Bezos is missing a great marketing trick - he can afford to build his own moon rocket, and then go there himself (and be the first "billionaire" to get there) and even open an Amazon Prime "taxi service" counter on the Moon...so that future NASA astronauts can book a return flight when the SpaceX lander fails to take off !

      However - he seems to prefer to keep his own money and just get hand-outs for non-existing, un-proven space rockets from the millions of US tax-payers (of which he clearly isn't one).

  11. AIBailey

    So NASA...

    ... awarded the contract to the company with a proven track record of launches and recovery into LEO and beyond, vs a company that's not actually put anything into orbit yet and has only recently demonstrated a glorified fairground ride with a ballistic trajectory?

    Shocking.

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