Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate passed a measure that would allot $10 billion over five years for NASA to develop two new lunar landers. Buried in a nearly $250 billion bill intended to boost innovation, the measure was equal to about 43% of the space agency’s total budget.

Why the extravagance? On one level, it surely makes sense to build a backup lander if astronauts are going to return to the moon in 2024 as planned. But there may also have been a less reputable motive. In April, a group led by Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin lost out on a competitive bid to build the lander to Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

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