More crap from Congress: A Senate committee has approved a new NASA authorization that requires the agency to award a second lunar lander contract — in addition to the one given to SpaceX — even though that authorization gives NASA no additional money to pay for that second contract.
This provision was inserted by senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington). Washington state also happens to be the state where one of the rejected companies, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, is located. I wonder how much cash Bezos’ has deposited in Cantwell’s bank account.
This provision not only does not give NASA any cash to build two lunar landers, what NASA dubs the Human Landing System (HLS), it forces NASA to violate other laws.
This new NASA authorization bill would require NASA to fund HLS design, development, testing and evaluation “for not fewer than 2 entities” and gives the agency just 30 days after the bill is enacted into law to do it.
How NASA could implement that in such a short time is a mystery. It went through a source selection process and chose a winner with documentation as to why. That decision is under protest at GAO, which must make a ruling by August 4. GAO can uphold the award or require NASA to change its decision. Either way, how an additional layer of congressionally-directed procurement action would affect that process is murky and could hang like a Damoclean sword over HLS, delaying its development and the timeline for putting astronauts back on the Moon. HLS is necessary for ferrying crews between lunar orbit and the surface.
Not to mention NASA does not have the money to pay another contractor. The Anti-Deficiency Act prohibits agencies from spending money they do not have. That is why NASA chose only one company in the first place.
This is just another example of corrupt micro-managing from Congress. Congress surely has the right to demand such things, but to not fund it properly guarantees nothing will get built, or if it does it will eventually cost far more and take far longer to build (as has been the case with SLS).
The biggest irony here is that the contract winner, SpaceX, is still proceeding full speed with building its lunar lander, Starship, despite the hold up of NASA funding because of the protests. It has raised about $6 billion in private investment capital, and is also beginning to earn money from its Starlink satellite constellation that has the potential to bring in billions more. While Blue Origin sat on its hands waiting for a government hand-out, SpaceX pushed forward, using profit and private capital as its primary funding source.
In the end, it is becoming very obvious which of these differing approaches will succeed.
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