Blue Origin: Bezos company aims to take people to moon by 2024

The Amazon CEO’s aerospace company is developing rockets for short space tourism trips and satellite launch contracts

The tech billionaires’ space race is heating up.

Jeff Bezos’s aerospace company, Blue Origin, aims to take people to the moon by 2024, he announced on Thursday.

The company owned by the billionaire Amazon executive has been pushing to establish a lunar base for humans within the next five years.

On Thursday, it made that goal public with the announcement of its new Blue Moon lander, an unmanned spacecraft that can carry up to 6.5 metric tons for deposit on the moon, allowing it to lay the framework for future human missions. The company has been developing the technology for three years, Bezos said.

During his hour-long presentation at Washington DC’s convention center, Bezos waved his arm and a black drape behind him dropped to reveal the two-story-tall unmanned lander mockup, which he said can deploy up to four smaller rovers and shoot out satellites to orbit the moon.

Meet the Blue Moon lander. pic.twitter.com/R2nnFmVhdY

— Eric Berger (@SciGuySpace) May 9, 2019

“We have been given a gift – this nearby body called the moon,” Bezos said, listing factors that make the moon a good target for space travel, including its proximity to earth, low gravity and ice content.

In March, the vice-president, Mike Pence, called on Nasa to build a space platform in lunar orbit and put American astronauts on the moon’s south pole by 2024 “by any means necessary”, four years earlier than previously planned.

“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.”

Blue Origin touted the announcement as a chance to “share our vision of going to space to benefit Earth”.

Jeff Bezos poses with children from ‘Club for the Future’ after unveiling Blue Origin’s space exploration lunar lander rocket 9 May 2019.
Jeff Bezos poses with children from ‘Club for the Future’ after unveiling Blue Origin’s space exploration lunar lander rocket on 9 May 2019. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

In addition to announcing the moon lander, Bezos spoke at the event about his hopes to create floating spacecraft for human colonies in the future, an idea he has touted in the past. He shared mock-ups of O’Neill cylinders, conceptual space colonies proposed by the physicist Gerard O’Neill that would rotate to simulate gravity and be able to sustain human and plant life.

“This is Maui on its best day, all year long,” Bezos said. “No rain. No earthquakes. People are going to want to live here.”

Privately held Blue Origin, based in Kent, Washington, is developing its New Shepard rocket for short space tourism trips and a heavy-lift launch rocket called New Glenn for satellite launch contracts. It is aiming to deliver the New Glenn rocket by 2021, while launching humans in a suborbital flight later this year atop its rocket-and-capsule New Shepard. The company has conducted several successful launches of New Shepard.

The news comes as Elon Musk also develops plans to bring humans to Mars with his company SpaceX. Musk previously set the first cargo-carrying Mars mission for 2022 and a crewed mission for 2024.

Contributor

Kari Paul in San Francisco and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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