Poor Jeff Bezos.
His space flight company, Blue Origins, just lost out on a $2.89 billion NASA contract to build a human landing system to land Artemis Project astronauts on the moon in 2024, according to a Fox Business News report.
To make matters worse for Bezos, who recently became the wealthiest man on the planet – again, he lost to his nemesis, Elon Musk’s, SpaceX. NASA reported the SpaceX bid was lower Blue Origins’ “by a wide margin,” Fox noted.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington state, where Blue Origins is headquartered, and Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, sought to soften the blow by adding an amendment to S. 1260, the $130 billion “Endless Frontier Act.”
According to the Senate website, the purpose of this bill is: “To establish a new Directorate for Technology and Innovation in the National Science Foundation, to establish a regional technology hub program, to require a strategy and report on economic security, science, research, innovation, manufacturing, and job creation, to establish a critical supply chain resiliency program, and for other purposes.”
This legislation seeks to strengthen “national competitiveness in science, research, and innovation to support the national security strategy.” The bill is designed to boost our ability to compete with China.
The Cantwell/Wicker amendment proposes to add $10 billion to the bill which would provide additional funding for NASA’s Artemis Project. It would “direct NASA to have two lander programs.” NASA would have the opportunity to “create another contract that Blue Origins would be favored to win.”
Fortunately, not all senators are on board with this ill-advised amendment.
Last Monday, Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont introduced an amendment to block it. He told colleagues, “I worry very much that what we are seeing now is two of the wealthiest people in this country, Mr. Elon Musk and Mr. Bezos, deciding that they are going to take control over our space industry.”
Later, Sanders noted on Twitter: “Jeff Bezos is the richest guy on the planet. He’s gotten $86 billion richer since the start of the COVID pandemic. Does he really need $10 billion from Congress for space exploration?”
When we landed on the moon, there was great collective pride in that achievement. Our space program should be something that we ALL take part in. We shouldn’t hand over $10B in corporate welfare to Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, who are jointly worth $350B, to fund their space hobby. pic.twitter.com/f1uLPXPjuR
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 26, 2021
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican, co-sponsored Sanders’ amendment. “Why would @SenSchumer and Democrats give billionaire Jeff Bezos a multi-billion dollar bailout? Happy to co-sponsor @SenSanders’ amendment,” he wrote on Twitter.
The amendment met with sharp criticism from other Republican members including Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri. “Why is the Senate preparing to give @amazon’s Jeff Bezos a $10 billion bailout?
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) May 26, 2021
As always, the outspoken Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, cut right to the chase. He wrote:
Cry me a river, Jeff Bezos lost out on a space contract so now Senate inserts a Bezos bailout provision for $10 billion for his space company??
Isn’t there some remnant of decency in Congress to oppose bailouts for billionaires?
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 26, 2021
Bailouts are bad.
Bailouts of Jeff Bezos are incomprehensible.
What is the Senate thinking?
Is the Senate thinking? https://t.co/NznoK3grmn
— JD Rucker (@JDRucker) May 27, 2021
No, the Senate is not thinking. Now that they’re dealing with trillions, they treat $10 billion like chump change. This is madness and it has to stop.
Although American science should be advanced and interest in STEM should be encouraged in a reasonable manner, these bills should not serve as vessels to bailout powerful billionaire’s private space programs.