Jeff Bezos unveils a mock-up of a new lunar lander “Blue Moon” that aims to take payloads and humans to the Moon by 2024.
Mr. Jeff Bezos presented the Moon goals of his space exploration company Blue Origin at the Washington Convention Centre in Washington DC, to an audience consisting of potential customers and officials from Nasa.
In March, the Trump administration announced that it intended to return US astronauts to the Moon by the end of 2024.
NASA said in April that it wants to fund a large, private lunar lander to get its astronauts to and from the moon, ideally as soon as 2024.
“This is an incredible vehicle, and it’s going to the moon. It’s time to go back to the Moon, this time to stay,” said Mr. Jeff Bezos.
Blue Origin had been teasing the idea of a lunar lander called Blue Moon over the past few years, and the company recently received millions of dollars in grants from NASA to develop critical lunar-lander systems. But until today hadn’t yet spoken in detail about concrete plans or hardware.
With this new announcement, Jeff Bezos is angling for NASA’s attention. The space agency recently updated its space-exploration plans at the behest of Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump. NASA originally hoped to test a moon lander in 2024, then try for crewed landings in 2028; but now the agency is attempting to attract private industry to design and build a spacecraft to land astronauts on the moon in 2024.
“We can help meet that timeline, but only because we started three years ago,” Bezos said.
The aim is to move heavy industry and energy generation off-Earth to return the planet to a more pristine condition and treat as a residential haven.
Blue Moon will land on the south pole of the Moon, where ice deposits have been found in craters. The water derived from that ice can be broken down to produce hydrogen, which could then fuel up the spacecraft for further missions across the solar system.
It will feature a new rocket engine called BE-7 that can blast 10,000lb (4,535kg) of thrust. The engine will burn hydrogen with oxygen, which are the two ingredients of water and can be made from ice deposits on the moon.
“We’re using liquid hydrogen because, ultimately, we’re going to be able to get hydrogen from that water on the moon and be able to refuel these vehicles on the surface,” Bezos said.
The reusable Blue Moon vehicle will carry scientific instruments, satellites and rovers.
The Blue Moon lunar lander comes loaded with enough fuel to get from Earth to the Moon.
It can deliver payloads to the lunar surface, deploy up to four self-driving rovers, and launch satellites to orbit the Moon.
A pressurised vehicle for humans is also envisaged.
Blue Moon will weigh 33,000lb when loaded with fuel on lift-off from Earth, which will decrease to about 7,000lb when it is about to land on the Moon.
In his speech, Mr Bezos said that Blue Origin would be able to meet Trump’s deadline, but “only because” the firm had begun designing the lunar lander in 2016.
Mr Bezos wanted to improve access to the Moon, because he has a wider vision of a future where people can live and work in space, which is not possible today.
“The price of admission to do interesting things in space right now is just too high because there’s no infrastructure,” he said. To illustrate this, he showed pictures of self-sustaining space colonies that could support people, animals and greenery – somewhat similar to the concepts developed by Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill.