Blue Origin, the spaceflight company owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, revealed their plans to land on the Moon, in a rare press event on Thursday, according to The Atlantic.
Since it often operates under the radar, especially compared to Elon Musk’s highly public SpaceX, observers were surprised to learn that the plan has been underway for about three years. Bezos unveiled a mock-up of a lunar lander design called Blue Moon, as well as a small lunar rover.
The lander will be powered by liquid hydrogen, which will allow it to refuel from ice water on the poles of the moon. Bezos also unveiled a new liquid hydrogen engine called the BE-7, as well as a photo of a version of the lander designed to carry a crew. These missions could start as soon as 2024. Engine tests on the BE-7 are expected to begin this summer.
And in contrast to SpaceX’s Elon Musk, who has described Mars as the first destination for human colonies in space, Bezos’s vision sees the moon as a jumping off point for an eventual colonization of space.
“It’s time to go back to the moon, this time to stay,” Bezos said Thursday.
He laid out a vision based on the ideas of his former professor, the late physicist Gerard O’Neill.
O’Neill envisioned huge, habitable cylinders in orbit, perpetually spinning to produce their own gravity. Each one could house up to a million residents, national parks, or heavy, polluting industry that could be moved off of our own fragile planet. The habitats could be engineered to have perfect weather, year-round.
“People are going to want to live here,” Bezos said.
O’Neill saw the moon as a stepping stone in this process, and Bezos said he is aiming to start mining the moon’s natural resources and reducing the cost of spaceflight. The rest of the process will be left to future generations, he said.
“The kids here and their kids and grandchildren will build these colonies. My generation’s job is to build the infrastructure so they will be able to. We are going to build a road to space,” Bezos said, speaking of young attendees he had invited as part of a new “Club for the Future,” started to “inspire young people to build the future of life in space.”
In the meantime, Blue Origin seems poised to be central to renewed efforts by the Trump Administration to return to the moon. In March, Vice President Mike Pence called on NASA to make it back to the moon by 2024, and to “accomplish this goal by any means necessary.”
Despite his friction with the administration in other areas, Bezos said of Pence’s moon goal:
“I love this. It’s the right thing to do.”