Blue Origin is going to the Moon. In an hour-long presentation in Washington DC on May 9th, Jeff Bezos spelled out his plans for reaching the Moon, confirming what many guessed he was hinting at in a tweet from the previous week.
Bezos and his company, Blue Origin, are developing a lunar lander capable of landing a large payload of 6.5 metric tons (14,330 lbs.) on the lunar surface. The lander is being called ‘Blue Moon’ and the target date for its rendezvous with the Moon is 2024.
Universe Today readers are probably already familiar with what makes the Moon a desirable destination. Not only is it the only body we can realistically establish a presence on or near, but it has other attractions. Bezos was quick to point out the Moon’s low gravity, proximity, and the availability of water (ice.) “We have been given a gift, this nearby body called the Moon,” he said.
Blue Moon is more than just a lander. It’s a multi-purpose space vehicle to help humans develop their presence on the Moon. According to Bezos, it can not only carry humans to the surface of the Moon, it can deploy satellites and deliver up to four rovers to the lunar surface.
Blue Moon will have precision landing and soft-landing capabilities too. That’s what discerning astronauts expect in their landing vehicles these days, and all joking aside, it’ll be hard to develop a lunar base without either capability. Blue Moon will also carry power cells that will allow it to provide to power to payloads during the journey, and during the lunar night.
Blue Moon is designed to be versatile. Single mission vehicles won’t help us establish a lunar base the way a versatile vehicle like Blue Moon will. Along with all its other capabilities, the larger version of the Blue Moon lander will be able to carry an ascent vehicle to the surface, which is key to their 2024 for a crewed mission to the Moon.
But Bezos wasn’t done. He had more on his mind than Blue Moon. He’s thinking floating space colonies; an idea much talked about but far from imminent.
During his talk, Bezos shared pictures of O’Neill Cylinders, floating space colonies first imagined by Gerard K. O’Neill. These rotating cylinders provide a habitat for humans and the plants they need to live in space, or so the theory goes.
Right now, they’re just a dream, but that didn’t stop Bezos from waxing enthusiastic about them: “This is Maui on its best day, all year long,” Bezos said. “No rain. No earthquakes. People are going to want to live here.”
Maybe. Maybe if there was some overarching mission or purpose to live in one.
The year 2024 is of growing significance when it comes to the Moon. Vice President Mike Pence recently announced that NASA was being tasked with getting Americans back to the surface of the Moon by 2024, four years earlier than the previous plan. He also called for NASA to have an orbiting lunar space platform in place by the same year. SpaceX also has plans for getting to the Moon by 2024.
“I love this,” Bezos said of Pence’s timeline. “We can help meet that timeline but only because we started three years ago. It’s time to go back to the moon, this time to stay.”
There’s obviously a lot of work to be done. Bezos pointed out that they’ve been working on the lander for a few years already, and that the precision landing methods have been perfected during their rocket development. Their New Shepard rocket uses precision vertical landing, and presumably the same system they developed for the rocket, or a version of it, will be used on Blue Moon.
If you’d like to watch Bezos’ entire presentation, here it is: