GAO also said that NASA rated the three proposals fairly, and while they agreed that NASA wrongly waived a requirement for SpaceX, that mistake wasn’t serious enough to retry the competition.
“Despite this result, the decision also concludes that the demonstrators could not identify a reasonable possibility of impairment of competition due to this limited discrepancy in assessment,” a GAO statement said.
The award to SpaceX is only for the first moon landing, slated for 2024, though few expect it to happen anytime soon. “Importantly, the GAO decision enables NASA and SpaceX to set a schedule for the first manned landing on the moon in more than 50 years,” NASA said in a statement.
NASA officials have announced that they will be opening another lunar lander competition to Blue Origin, Dynetics, and every other company.
In his letter, Mr Bezos said that NASA should decide now to ensure competition. “Competition will prevent a single source from having an insurmountable impact on NASA,” he wrote.
Following the decision, Blue Origin said in a statement, “We strongly believe that there were fundamental issues with NASA’s decision that GAO was unable to address due to its limited jurisdiction. We will continue to advocate two instant providers as we believe this is the right solution. “
To get NASA to reopen the competition, Commerce Committee Chair Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington, where Blue Origin is headquartered, added a bipartisan provision requiring the agency to select a second contractor for extensive research and Technology Act, which the Senate passed overwhelmingly in June. Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, resented the move, claiming that it was a “bailout” for Mr. Bezos’ company. But powerful senators on the trade committee backed him, arguing that NASA had always intended to give out two awards.