In an open letter to NASA, Jeff Bezos has offered to waive billions of dollars in payments from the space agency in order to ensure his company Blue Origin gets to take part in its upcoming moon missions.
With a potential funding shortfall threatening to derail NASA’s planned moon missions – in particular its Human Landing System (HLS) – the billionaire founder of Amazon and the world’s wealthiest person has offered to bridge the financial gap “by waiving all payments in the current and next two government fiscal years up to $2bn to get the program back on track”.
His letter follows protests which Blue Origin filed with NASA after the agency awarded a contract worth nearly $3bn to SpaceX back in April to provide a lunar lander that will carry astronauts to the surface of the moon.
It comes less than a week after Jeff Bezos himself ventured into space as part of Blue Origin’s first human mission, a feat which he controversially thanked Amazon employees and customers for paying for.
In his letter, Mr Bezos warned that the agency’s contract with SpaceX “broke the mould of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come”.
He said the decision “eliminated the benefits of utilising” Blue Origin, which has designed its system so that it is “capable of flying on multiple launch vehicles, including Falcon Heavy, SLS, Vulcan, and New Glenn”, while SpaceX’s system would require “10+ Super Heavy/Starship launches just to get a single lander to the surface”.
“Instead of this single source approach, NASA should embrace its original strategy of competition,” the letter said, noting NASA has begun to solicit new lunar lander proposals.
Blue Origin added to NASA that it will continue to develop and launch, at its own cost, a pathfinder mission to low-Earth orbit and an uncrewed moon landing mission as part of its work on the HLS.
NASA has not yet responded to the letter.
However, an audit report by NASA’s office of inspector general has warned that the Artemis programme – which aims to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024 – is “unlikely” to be achieved within this timeframe.
Artemis is named after the mythological sister of Apollo, the first moon mission’s namesake.
Boy, 10, ‘shot mother dead after she refused to buy him a virtual reality headset’
A 10-year-old boy allegedly shot and killed his mother because she would not buy him a virtual reality headset.
The boy at first claimed the shooting was an accident, but later said he intentionally aimed at his mother.
He is said to have logged into her Amazon account and ordered a headset the morning after she died, according to his aunt and sister, who claim he has not cried or showed any remorse.
The boy has been charged as an adult with first-degree reckless homicide and is in juvenile detention.
The incident happened just before 7am on 21 November in the city of Milwaukee in Wisconsin.
State law requires children as young as 10 to be charged as adults for certain serious crimes, but lawyers can request the case is moved to a juvenile court.
One of the boy’s lawyers, Angela Cunningham, said: “This is an absolute family tragedy.
“I don’t think anybody would deny or disagree with that… the adult system is absolutely ill-equipped to address the needs of a 10-year-old child.”
The boy is said to have told officers he got the gun from his mother’s bedroom and went down to the basement where she was doing laundry, according to criminal charges seen by the Journal Sentinel, a local newspaper.
Milwaukee Police initially said that the boy was “playing” with the gun when it fired, fatally injuring his mother.
The force said the incident would be referred to the Milwaukee County District Attorney General’s Office for review.
They also reminded the public to “keep firearms secured with a gunlock and out of the reach of children”.
A day after the incident, however, concerned relatives called the police.
History of ‘disturbing behaviour’
The boy is said to have a history of “disturbing behaviour”, including swinging a puppy around by its tail when he was four.
His family told police he filled a balloon with flammable liquid and set it alight, causing an explosion that burned furniture and the carpet.
When questioned by his family, the boy said he hears imaginary people talking to him.
He also physically attacked his seven-year-old cousin on the day of the shooting.
In a second interview with police, he said he tried shooting a wall to “scare her” when she walked in front of him and was wounded, according to the charge sheet.
He also told them he took the gun because his mother woke him up 30 minutes earlier than usual, at 6am, that day.
Jake Flint: US country star, 37, dies just hours after getting married
US country music star Jake Flint has died unexpectedly at the age of 37, just hours after getting married.
The Oklahoma-based singer/songwriter died in his sleep after he tied the knot with wife Brenda on Saturday.
His heartbroken bride posted on Facebook: “We should be going through wedding photos but instead, I have to pick out clothes to bury my husband in.
“People aren’t meant to feel this much pain.
“My heart is gone and I just really need him to come back.
“I can’t take much more. I need him here.”
She also shared a picture of the couple dancing after their nuptials on Facebook, writing “I don’t understand.”
Mr Flint’s publicist, Clif Doyal, said the musician died in his sleep in the early hours of the morning on Sunday, 27 November.
“Flint had exchanged wedding vows with Brenda Wilson on Saturday. He was 37.
“No official cause of death has been determined.”
In a statement shared by Mr Doyal, Mr Flint’s family said they were “broken” over the “tragic loss” of their beloved son, brother, uncle and partner, known to them as Jacob.
“He valued his family, friendships and living life to the fullest, which was evident in his songwriting.
“Every person who knew him has a story of his wit, charm, talent and compassion.
“We are so grateful for the outpouring of support and the many beautiful tributes that have been shared about the impact Jacob had on many lives.
“While we grieve what we know could have been, we are grateful that his talent and love live on in his songs.”
A service for Mr Flint will take place on Monday at Cedar Point Church in Claremore, Oklahoma.
Instead of flowers, the family have requested donations to the Red Dirt Relief Fund, an organisation which provides emergency assistance funding grants to musicians in need.
A fundraising campaign has also been launched to raise money for the family of Mr Flint, described as a “great man in our music community.”
The musician was in the middle of a multi-state tour and had been scheduled to perform in Claremore on Friday.
His former manager, Brenda Cline, said she “loved him much like a son”, hailing him as the “funniest, most hilarious, hardest working, dedicated artist I have ever worked with in my career.”
“Jake has a million friends and I’m not sure how everyone will cope with this tragic loss,” she wrote on Facebook.
“This is going to be incredibly difficult for so many. We love you Jake and in our hearts forever.”
William and Kate met by chants of ‘USA, USA’ and pockets of booing as race row clouds visit
The Prince and Princess of Wales’ first overseas trip since the Queen’s death has been overshadowed by controversy at home.
William and Kate arrived in Boston yesterday for a three-day visit before the Earthshot Prize, the prince’s environmental awards ceremony, on Friday.
Hours earlier, the prince’s godmother resigned from her duties at Buckingham Palace after repeatedly asking a black visitor “where she really came from”.
A Kensington Palace spokesman who spoke to William before he boarded his flight said Lady Susan Hussey’s comments were “unacceptable” and that “racism has no place in our society”.
He added that Lady Hussey, 83, was right to have stepped aside from her honorary role as Lady of the Household with immediate effect.
The monarchy has faced allegations of institutional racism since Ngozi Fulani, a British-born charity boss, revealed what had happened at an event in Buckingham Palace on Tuesday.
Lady Hussey, who served as the Queen’s lady in waiting for more than 60 years, has offered her “profound apologies for the hurt caused”.
William focused on the Earthshot Prize as he greeted crowds in Boston, saying: “We are both looking forward to spending the next few days learning about the innovative ways the people of Massachusetts are tackling climate change.”
The White House has confirmed that the royal couple are set to meet Joe Biden, the president, later this week.
William and Kate sat courtside to watch an NBA game and were booed by small pockets of the crowd around the stadium when they were introduced by an announcer and shown on the big screen.
At one point, some fans in the crowd could be heard loudly cheering “USA, USA” when the couple appeared on the screens in the centre above the court.
Analysis: William and Kate will work hard to win back America
The timing could not be worse.
William and Kate haven’t been to the US for eight years, a time period that has seen monumental change for the monarchy.
It’s also their first time in America since Prince Harry and Meghan left Britain for California.
“What’s been unfolding in Britain over the past 24 hours provides a really prime opportunity for William and Kate,” said Arianne Chernock, Professor of British History at Boston University. “If they were to come out with their own public statement in Boston that would really resonate with the American public.”
This is a chance for them to rebuild royal relations in America.
The fallout from Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah, watched by millions around the world, damaged the image of the Royal Family.
This latest racism row will do little to repair that, especially in the US.
“This was not the sort of thing they wanted happening right at the start of their trip,” said Washington Post royal columnist Autumn Brewington. “This will be seen by many people as substantiating things that Meghan and Harry have said both in terms of perhaps the comments that were made to them, and the palace’s hesitation to act on things that were said to them.”
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will make more headlines soon with their impending Netflix series, and the release of Harry’s much-hyped memoir.
The Prince and Princess of Wales’ visit was supposed to help put the Royal Family back on the front foot in the US.
It also gives them a world stage to champion causes they care about.
Their engagements in Boston are based around climate change, vulnerable young people, sport and the early years.
“This is a really important moment for the couple to reset basically and indicate where the royal family is going to be in the years to come,” said Prof Chernock.
Boston has a deep history with the Royal Family, it was the birthplace of the American revolution, and there remains a fascination with the British monarchy.
Expect to see the Prince and Princess of Wales working hard to win back America.
Charity boss reacts to resignation
Buckingham Palace said yesterday that it was taking the incident “extremely seriously” and described Lady Hussey’s comments as “unacceptable and deeply regrettable”.
Ms Fulani works as an advocate for survivors of domestic abuse and described the exchange as a “violation”.
Speaking to LBC, the chief executive of Sistah Space said “nobody from the palace has spoken to me”, but she would be “happy to have a conversation to bring about a positive solution”.
Reflecting further, she said: “To be honest I wish that the lady could be spoken to and know the damage she has caused and preferably not be front-facing.
“But for her to resign, that has nothing to do with me. I don’t feel good about that. She’s an elder and in my culture we respect elders.
“Conversations need to be had with the relevant people so this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.”
Last year, the Duchess of Sussex claimed that a member of the royal household raised concerns about what colour skin her son Archie would have before he was born.
Royals must ‘step up’
Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, who was standing next to Ms Fulani and witnessed the exchange, said she was “stunned”.
“It was really uncomfortable. If Ngozi was a white woman there is no way that line of questioning would have taken place. It’s not what you expect,” she told Sky News.
“We weren’t gate crashers, but we were made to feel almost like trespassers.”
Asked if she was reassured by Lady Hussey stepping down and apologising, she said no – and that the royals need to “step up” and acknowledge that “institutional racism is part of the culture”.
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