- Jeff Bezos revealed Blue Origin’s lunar lander, Blue Moon on Thursday afternoon during a secretive event
- The lander has been in development for three years, putting it on track for a 2024 landing, Bezos said
- Company also developing a new rocket engine for the system, which could be stepping stone for colonization
- Blue Origin teased an image of Ernest Shackleton’s exploration ship Endurance, suggesting their moon plans
- Shackleton is the name of a crater in the moon’s famed South Pole-Aitken Basin, many noted ahead of event
Blue Origin is now in the running to put Americans back on the moon by 2024.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has revealed the ambitious next steps for his aerospace company at a highly-secretive media event in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.
During the event, which kicked off at 4 p.m., the billionaire and Blue Origin founder started off by sharing elaborate concept images of self-sustaining space habitats reminiscent of the film Interstellar, with lush greenery and futuristic homes within its walls.
But, the real star of the talk turned out to be something much closer to home – the moon. On stage, Bezos took the wraps off a massive model of what will be the firm’s first lunar lander, dubbed Blue Moon.
‘This is an incredible vehicle, and it’s going to the moon,’ Bezos said, according to CNN, which live-blogged the event.
According to the CEO, the lander has been in development for the last three years and is on track for a 2024 crewed moon landing – falling in line with the five-year deadline revealed earlier this year by Vice President Mike Pence.
The plan could ultimately serve as a stepping stone for colonization of the moon and deeper space targets, Bezos suggested.
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‘It’s time to go back to the moon, this time to stay,’ Bezos said during the event, according to CNN, mirroring a statement made repeatedly over the past few months by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
Blue Origin says its lunar lander will be able to carry all sorts of payloads to the surface and can hold ‘multiple metric tons.’
The craft will ’enable a sustained human presence on the moon,’ the company said. And, according to the CEO, the company already has about six customers.
The lander builds upon technology the firm has been testing over the past few years in its New Shepard rocket, including propulsion and precision guidance, as well as the vertical landing system. The firm has quietly been developing Blue Moon for years.
According to CNN, Blue Origin is also developing a new rocket engine specifically for its planned moon landings. The system, called BE-7, has been in the works for three years.
Blue Origin says it could conduct the first test fire as soon as this summer.
Bezos also delved into his visions for human colonization of the moon and eventually, deep space, touching on the concept of self-sustaining ‘O’Neill colonies’ exponentially larger than the International Space Station where humans and animals could live.
Earth’s resources alone won’t be able to sustain humanity forever even with energy conservation, the mogul noted during the event, according to CNN.
Considering the possibility of a future that relies on strict rationing, Bezos suggests we must look toward space in order to continue thriving.
‘That’s the path that we would be on,’ he said,’ according to CNN.
‘It would lead for the first time to where your children and grandchildren have worse lives than you. That’s a bad path.
The event was first teased last month in a cryptic tweet from the Blue Origin Twitter account, where it shared an image of explorer Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance, a polar exploration ship lost to the ice in in 1915.
Additionally, in a notice sent to the reporters, the company said it ‘will give an update on [Blue Origin’s] progress and share our vision of going to space to benefit Earth.’
WHAT IS THE BLUE MOON LANDER?
Jeff Bezos has revealed his space exploration company’s new lunar lander, dubbed Blue Moon.
The spacecraft is capable of carrying and delivering payloads to the moon’s surface.
‘This is an incredible vehicle and it’s going to the moon,’ Bezos said.
Blue Origin has long called out a mission to the moon as one of its foremost priorities and spent the past three years working to develop the craft.
It harnesses many of the same ‘propulsion, precision guidance, vertical landing and landing gear systems’ utilized by New Shepard, Blue Origin’s rocket meant to ferry humans to the moon.
The craft is equipped with fuel cells to provide ‘kilowatts of power’ that are capable of lasting for long-distance missions.
Once Blue Moon arrives at its destination, it uses machine learning algorithms to land with precision on the lunar surface.
Blue Moon can deliver several metric tons of payload to the moon, thanks to its top deck and lower bays, the latter of which will allow for ‘closer access to the lunar surface and off-loading,’ the firm said.
With this technology, Blue Origin hopes it will prepare us to be able to send humans back to the moon as soon as 2024.
Blue Origin also shared a copy of the ‘Earthrise’ photo taken by NASA astronauts during the Apollo 8 mission, in addition to the image of Endurance it tweeted out.
Several Blue Origin fans were quick to point out that the image of Endurance may be an obscure reference to a future lunar mission. As it turns out, they were correct.
A crater located on the south pole of the moon, called Shackleton, was named after the famed explorer, suggesting that Bezos may have some lunar-related announcements up his sleeve.
The Shackleton crater is located in the expansive South Pole-Aitken Basin, one of the largest known impact craters in the solar system, that spans 1,600 miles and is approximately eight miles deep.
Scientists have long had their eye on the Aitken Basin, as they believe it could hold a bounty of life-sustaining resources.
NASA hopes to conduct a mission to the moon’s south pole as soon as 2024, while China’s Chang’e 6 lander aims to explore the lunar south pole.
Many scientists are eyeing this area of the moon as they believe it could be host to huge sheets of ice that could be mined for drinking water or converted into hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel or oxygen to breathe.
In turn, it could help sustain future human colonies on the moon.
Blue Origin has also discussed its plans to build and launch a lunar lander, revealing concept images of the spacecraft in 2018.
‘The future will be better for our children – and our children’s children – if we use space to benefit life on Earth and enable millions of people to live and work in space,’ the company said.
‘The next logical step in this path is a return to the Moon. To do this we need reusable access to the lunar surface and its resources.’
As part of the mission, referred to as Blue Moon, the company hopes to deliver cargo to the moon’s surface, as well as scout for sources of water.
Blue Origin is also part of The Moon Race, a non-profit that aims to establish a new competition, enlisting teams to develop ways to produce energy, grow food and establish infrastructure on the moon in exchange for cash prizes.
The Moon Race has also attracted support from Airbus and the European Space Agency.
Today’s announcement could eventually tie into an expected update on Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket.
New Glenn is the company’s orbital rocket that it hopes to launch into space in 2021, though Blue Origin has released few details about the vehicle.
It’s thought that the heavy-lift launch rocket could help Blue Origin complete a mission to the moon.
The company has yet to conduct test flights of New Glenn and it has not been seen publicly.
Meanwhile, a smaller rocket named New Shepard is envisioned to deliver humans to the edge of space later this year.
Blue Origin conducted its 11th successful launch and landing of the New Shepard rocket earlier this month.
The company faces stiff competition from a range of players, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which some have coined the ‘billionaire space race.’
THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE
Jeff Bezos’ space tourism project with Blue Origin is competing with a similar programme in development by Space X, the rocket firm founded and run by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and Virgin Galactic, backed by Richard Branson.
Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he finances Blue Origin with around $1 billion (£720 million) of Amazon stock each year.
The system consists of a pressurised crew capsule atop a reusable ‘New Shepard’ booster rocket.
The richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos is pursuing Blue Origin with vigour as he tries to launch his ‘New Glenn’ rocket into low-Earth orbit by 2020.
Whilst Bezos is yet to leave the atmosphere of Earth, despite several successful launches, Elon Musk’s SpaceX programme has already sent the Falcon Heavy rocket into space.
On February 6 2018, SpaceX sent the rocket towards the orbit of Mars, 140 million miles away.
On board was a red Tesla roadster that belonged to Musk himself.
SpaceX have won several multi-million dollar contracts from Nasa as the space agency hopes to use the rockets as a fast-track for its colonisation of the red planet.
It has successfully sent a Dragon capsule to the ISS and undocked without a hitch.
NASA has already selected two astronauts who will be on-board the first manned Dragon mission.
Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic successfully conducted two test flight of the Virgin Galactic’s Unity spaceplane.
The first took place in December 2018 and the latest took place on February 22nd.
The flight accelerated to over 2,000 miles per hour (Mach 2.7).
More than 600 affluent customers to date, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin’s space trips,
The billionaire mogul also said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket firm SpaceX.
SpaceShipTwo can carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows – one to the side and one overhead.
The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.
It climbs to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier craft, White Knight II, once it’s passed the 50-mile mark.
Passengers become ‘astronauts’ when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere.
The spaceship will then make a sub-orbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 1.5 hours.
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