NASA-Boeing Contact on Moon Lander Bid Sparks Controversy

It led to the resignation of one NASA official

Boeing rockets
Boeing Delta IVs at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in 2004.

The blend of public agencies and private enterprise currently making American spaceflight happen can lead to some tricky moments. There have been some unabashed triumphs in recent years, with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon successfully conveying astronauts to the International Space Station being high on that list. But there’s also been plenty of behind-the-scenes complexity in the government’s dealings with various businesses. A new report from Christian Davenport at The Washington Post explores one particularly complex situation, ethically speaking.

Earlier this year, NASA announced three winners of study contracts with the end goal of building lunar landers for an ambitious Moon landing program.  The three companies that received them were Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX. Boeing also submitted a bit, but was not chosen. As Davenport’s reporting shows, there’s a little more to it than that.

The Post‘s report reveals that a NASA official, Doug Loverro, reached out to Boeing with information about the process, at which time Boeing  sought to update their bid. As you might imagine, this prompted NASA to look into the matter further — leading to Loverro’s resignation. It’s a situation involving high-ranking figures at both Boeing and NASA, according to the article:

The conversation at the root of the investigation was between Loverro and Jim Chilton, the senior vice president of Boeing’s space and launch division, putting one of the company’s top executives in the middle of the probe, according to multiple people familiar with what took place.

The specifics of the situation remain unclear, though one source told Davenport that the conversations “occurred outside the normal dictated channels but didn’t violate the sanctity of the procurement process.” Space exploration is a milieu with many mysteries; turns out that the processes to make space exploration happen might be among them.

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