Today, Blue Origin—the private spaceflight company founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos—officially revealed Blue Moon, the company's lunar lander designed for towing cargo—scientific payloads or humans—to and from the moon.
At the event, Blue Origin's Founder Jeff Bezos opened things up at the Washington, DC Convention Center by giving a pretty grim outlook for continued energy consumption on Earth, and instead pondered another plan. Instead of going to a distant planet that's too far away, what if we built our own planets, or as Bezos called them, "O'Neill Worlds," named after physicist and space activist Gerard O'Neill.
"This is going to take a long time," said Bezos at the announcement. "How are we going to build O'Neill colonies? I don't know and no one in this room knows. But we need gateways."
After this , Bezos gave a first glimpse at how Blue Origin plans to achieve this far-fetched dream: the Blue Moon lunar lander. Bezos said the lander will be able to transport between 3.6 to 6.5 tons of cargo and will run on liquid hydrogen.
In addition, Bezos provided details on the engine that will power the lander—the BE-7 engine, which will be test fired for the first time this summer.
In a digital recreation of Blue Moon in action, also revealed at today's event, it appears the lander comes equipped with several robotic helpers, including a lunar rover built for exploring the moon's surface. Blue Origin also announced that Blue Moon would be ready to ferry human cargo as early as 2024.
"Jeff laid out a rational reason to do this. That's what's been lacking," said Greg Johnson, head of the New Shepard program and retired NASA astronaut told Seniorhelpline at the event. "Everyone's been putting the pieces together, step by step this is what we have to do. My hope is that it makes everyone enthusiastic for a private/public partnership that gets us back to the moon."
All of this lunar news follows several weeks of speculation about Blue Origin’s potential moon exploration, spurred by showing a photo of a ship belonging to legendary explorer Ernest Shackleton.
Blue Origin's ambitious lunar arrival fits nicely with NASA's new directive from Vice President Mike Pence to return astronauts to the moon by 2024, a mission which Bezos says he "loves," saying "it's time to go back to the moon—this time to stay."
For NASA, the leading idea is the space agency's proposed Gateway project, an ISS-like space station that will host up to four astronauts held in cis-lunar orbit. Companies like Lockheed Martin have pitched landers adjusted for this tight deadline and other international partners will help build the station.
In April, William H. Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA, told Seniorhelpline that "the Gateway was designed to be adaptable for different roles and we believe its architecture and capabilities can support the new timeline."
But an orbital space station so far from home will need as much help as it can get. We're not sure if Amazon will partner with NASA to help support future lunar missions, but a dedicated cargo lander that runs on liquid hydrogen seems like a worthwhile tool to have in your arsenal.