Billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos unveiled on Thursday a mockup of a lunar lander being built by his Blue Origin rocket company and touted his moon goals.
Joey Roulette of Reuters had the news:
The world’s richest man and Amazon.com Inc’s chief executive waved an arm and a black drape behind him dropped to reveal the two-story-tall mockup of the unmanned lander dubbed Blue Moon during an hour-long presentation at Washington’s convention center, just several blocks from the White House.
The lander will be able to deliver payloads to the lunar surface, deploy up to four smaller rovers and shoot out satellites to orbit the moon, Bezos told the audience, which included NASA officials and potential Blue Moon customers.
His media event followed Vice President Mike Pence’s March 26 announcement that NASA plans 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.”
Brad Stone of Bloomberg News reported that Bezos has been fascinated with the moon for decades:
The moon has always been central to Bezos’s space-faring dreams, as well as the vision of his former professor, the late Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill. O’Neill, an iconoclast who passed away in 1992, envisioned a future with millions of humans living in space inside giant orbiting space cylinders, growing crops and harnessing the energy of the sun. The physicist theorized that the moon, a repository of raw materials and free of the atmosphere and punitive gravitational forces of the Earth, could be the staging ground to construct and economically launch such habitats.
This focus on the moon as the most effective way to start colonizing space sets Bezos apart from fellow space-faring tech billionaire Elon Musk, who sees colonizing Mars as humanity’s best “Plan B.” Bezos dubbed that kind of thinking to “planet chauvinism.” His pitch for a lunar landing even included a jab at those prefer to aim for Mars. “Round-trip on the order of years,” read one slide with an image of the red planet. “No real-time communication.”
Michael Sheetz of CNBC.com reported that Bezos invests more than $1 billion each year in Blue Origin:
Blue Origin, established nearly two decades ago, has remained relatively quiet about the rockets, engines and capsules it is developing. With its Latin tagline of “step by step, ferociously,” Blue Origin has been working on multiple space systems at the same time. Bezos invests more than $1 billion in the company each year, through sales of his Amazon shares.
Vice President Mike Pence earlier this year directed NASA to return U.S. astronauts to the surface of the moon within the next five years. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine answered by saying the agency will meet the White House’s directive, which represents an acceleration of NASA’s existing lunar exploration timeline. NASA’s fiscal 2020 budget request included a massive increase in funding of the the Advanced Cislunar and Surface Capabilities (ACSC) program. Under ACSC, the agency would first send robots to the surface without crews, later following up with astronauts. Despite internal hesitancy, NASA is considering commercial alternatives such as Blue Origin for getting astronauts to the moon’s surface.
“I love Vice President Pence’s 2024 lunar landing goal,” Bezos said, adding that Blue Origin can meet that timeline “because we started this three years ago.”