Last week, billionaire Amazon CEO and founder and richest man in the world Jeff Bezos unveiled the plan for Blue Origin — which is an aerospace company that he founded back in the year 2000. At the Blue Origin event in Washington D.C. on Thursday, Bezos presented a new rocket engine and a mockup of a lunar lander that the company is planning to use for transporting cargo and people to the moon.
Plus he also discussed the idea of setting up orbital structures for self-sustaining colonies. This would enable people to potentially live on the moon. The first mission for this program is not likely going to happen until 2024.
“Big things start small,” said Bezos at the event via CNN. “It’s time to go back to the moon, this time to stay.” Here is a video from the event:
The lunar lander — which is known as Blue Moon — will also potentially open the door for thousands of entrepreneurs to build new space businesses as well. The Blue Moon lunar lander looks similar to the ones NASA built for the Apollo program. Those modules landed 12 NASA astronauts on the moon in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Bezos said that the moon is a good place to begin manufacturing in space due to “its lower gravity than the Earth.” And he added that getting resources from the moon takes 24 times less energy to get it off the surface compared to the Earth.
These four-legged landers would be able to carry two to four passengers. It will have an upper deck for holding different types of cargo. And the liquid hydrogen-powered rocket engines would be able to generate 10,000 pounds of thrust. When it is fully loaded with fuel, it would weigh 33,000 pounds and support a payload capacity of up to 6.5 metric tons. The landers would likely ride on Blue Origin’s New Glenn rockets — which feature a 313-foot tall booster that the company is developing.
At the event, Bezos also revealed the BE-7 rocket engine. The rocket engine is going to be test fired later this summer.
According to CNN, Bezos has been funding Blue Origin from his own wealth as he sells about $1 billion worth of Amazon stock every year for the aerospace company. And it could also receive funding from NASA.
Several weeks ago, Vice President Mike Pence said that the United States would travel to the moon again within five years “by any means necessary.” Bezos believes that Blue Origin can meet Vice President Pence’s 2024 lunar landing goal because “we started this three years ago.”
But critics believe that Pence’s ambitions might be farfetched on a short timeline due to ambiguity about how the mission would be funded or executed. But private companies like Blue Origin may be interested in the potential for government contracts related to that mission. To fund International Space Station tasks for more than the last decade, NASA has been providing lucrative contracts to corporations like SpaceX and Boeing.
When Blue Origin first launched, it developed a suborbital space tourism vehicle called New Shepard — which may even start flying customers later this year. And in 2021, Blue Origin could even launch an orbital rocket vehicle called New Glenn for satellite launches. Eutelsat, OneWeb, and Mu Space are some Blue Origin customers that have plans for launching satellites with New Glenn.
Billionaire Elon Musk is also heavily involved in space launches through his SpaceX venture. SpaceX has been successfully launching satellites over the last few years. And Musk has been expressing interest in humans colonizing Mars within the next few decades. After Bezos made the Blue Origin announcement, Musk did not waste any time poking fun at Blue Origin’s lunar lander name.
But what Musk and Bezos have in common is the realization that the Earth has finite resources. “Earth is the best planet,” Bezos acknowledged. But he emphasized that some of the immediate issues like global warming, poverty, and pollution are becoming more problematic at a rapid pace.
“We will run out of energy on Earth,” Bezos added. “This is just arithmetic, it’s going to happen… If we move out into the universe, for all practical purposes, we have unlimited resources.”