The G.A.O. also said that NASA had fairly evaluated the three proposals, and although it agreed that NASA had improperly waived one requirement for SpaceX, that mistake was not serious enough to merit redoing the competition.
“Despite this finding, the decision also concludes that the protesters could not establish any reasonable possibility of competitive prejudice arising from this limited discrepancy in the evaluation,” the G.A.O. said in a statement.
The award to SpaceX is just for the first moon landing, scheduled for 2024, although few expect it will occur that soon. “Importantly, the G.A.O.’s decision will allow NASA and SpaceX to establish a timeline for the first crewed landing on the moon in more than 50 years,” NASA said in a statement.
NASA officials have said they would have another moon lander competition open to Blue Origin, Dynetics and any other company.
In his letter, Mr. Bezos said NASA should choose now to ensure competition. “Competition will prevent any single source from having insurmountable leverage over NASA,” he wrote.
After the decision, Blue Origin said in a statement: “We stand firm in our belief that there were fundamental issues with NASA’s decision, but the G.A.O. wasn’t able to address them due to their limited jurisdiction. We’ll continue to advocate for two immediate providers as we believe it is the right solution.”
In an effort to prod NASA into reopening the competition, the chairwoman of the Commerce Committee, Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington, where Blue Origin is headquartered, added a bipartisan provision requiring the agency to pick a second contractor into a sprawling research and technology bill that overwhelmingly passed the Senate in June. Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, chafed at the measure, claiming that it amounted to a “bailout” for Mr. Bezos’ company. But powerful senators on the Commerce Committee backed it, arguing that NASA had always intended to give out two awards.