By Bernhard, editor of Moon of Alabama
Jeff Bezos is going to space, says a CNN report:
Jeff Bezos will be flying to space on the first crewed flight of the New Shepard, the rocket ship made by his space company, Blue Origin. The flight is scheduled for July 20th, just 15 days after he is set to resign as CEO of Amazon.
Blue Origin said Bezos' younger brother, Mark Bezos, will also join the flight.
If all goes according to plan, Bezos — the world's richest person with a net worth of $187 billion — will be the first of the billionaire space tycoons to experience a ride aboard the rocket technology that he's poured millions into developing. Not even Elon Musk, whose SpaceX builds rockets powerful enough to enter orbit around Earth, has announced plans to travel to space aboard one of his companies human-worthy crew capsules.
The world's richest person will of course not pay for the trip.
Blue Origin as well as its competitor SpaceX are part of NASA's commercial crew and human landing system (HLS) programs which subsidize and support the development of various space flight and moon landing systems.
This was supposed to lead to the development of several commercial space services from which NASA can then select one for each of its missions. But when Blue Origin lost out in a recent bid to actually build the human landing system the company immediately launched a protest:
Blue Origin says in the GAO protest that its “National Team,” which included Draper, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, bid $5.99 billion for the HLS award, slightly more than double SpaceX’s bid. However, it argues that it was not given the opportunity to revise that bid when NASA concluded that the funding available would not allow it to select two bidders, as originally anticipated. NASA requested $3.3 billion for HLS in its fiscal year 2021 budget proposal but received only $850 million in an omnibus appropriations bill passed in December 2020.
Having failed to bilk the government out of several more billions Bezos called on his lobbyists:
In recent years, Blue Origin also has given its operation in the nation’s capital more muscle. It spent nearly $2 million in lobbying last year, up from a little more than $400,000 in 2015, according to OpenSecrets.org, which tracks spending. The company’s political action committee has amped up its donations as well, spending $320,000 in 2020, up from $22,000 in 2016.
A few envelopes changed hands and achieved the desired result:
Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell—from Amazon’s home state of Washington—tacked on $10 billion for NASA into the Endless Frontier Act, a bill that allocates funding to conduct research in technological innovation and space exploration. Presumably, Blue Origin will get a chunk of this, since Cantwell’s amendment specifically states that NASA will subsidize “design, development, testing, and evaluation for not fewer than 2 entities” for the Human Landing System Program. (Both Blue Origin and Dynetics had competed for the contract.)
That led to to a pissing contest with Elon Musk's SpaceX:
In a flier, SpaceX said the Cantwell amendment “undermines the federal government procurement process, rewards Jeff Bezos with a $10 billion sole-source hand-out, and will throw NASA’s Artemis program into years of litigation.” It adds that Blue Origin “has not produced a single rocket or spacecraft capable of reaching orbit.”
Blue Origin came back with its own flier subtitled “What is Elon Musk afraid of...a little competition?” with itemized “lies” in SpaceX’s flier. Its bottom line: “Elon Musk repeatedly talks about the value of competition, but when it comes to NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) program, he wants it all to himself.”
That Bezos is suddenly lauding the merit of competition, after having lost a bid with a way too high price, is more than a bit hypocritical:
Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine announced Tuesday he's suing Amazon on antitrust grounds, alleging the company's practices have unfairly raised prices for consumers and suppressed innovation.
Racine is seeking to end what he alleges is Amazon's illegal use of price agreements to edge out competition; the lawsuit also asks for damages and penalties to deter similar conduct.
Bezos, Musk and other billionaires are errors in our economic-political systems. They should be eliminated.
I am fine with subsidizing Bezos' or Musk's flights to space.
But don't make it round-trip tickets.
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