Jeff Bezos’ private space company Blue Origin revealed its long-awaited plans to go to the Moon at a mysterious press event today.
Bezos showed off a brand new design of its “Blue Moon” lander, which is designed to carry 6.5 tons (5.9 tonnes) to the surface of the Moon. According to Bezos, the Blue Origin team has been working on the design for three years.
“A very fundamental long-range problem is that we will run out of energy on Earth,” Bezos said at the event. “This is just arithmetic. It will happen.”
The solution, according to Bezos: look elsewhere for energy sources in the solar system.
The lunar lander will fit into the fairing of Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket and will feature a brand new BE-7 engine with 10,000 pounds (4,500 kilograms) of thrust. The new rocket will fire test for the first time as soon as this summer.
Bezos also confirmed that a modified version of the Blue Moon lander could be powerful enough to carry a pressurized ascent vehicle for astronauts to the lunar surface.
Today, our founder shared our vision to go to space to benefit Earth. We must return to the Moon—this time to stay. We’re ready to support @NASA in getting there by 2024 with #bluemoon. pic.twitter.com/UqQyMa9Zcn
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) May 9, 2019
A new space on Blue Origin’s website describes the lander as being capable of “precise and soft landings” to enable “a sustained human presence on the Moon.”
Bezos also talked about his futuristic visions of humanity living in giant space colonies modeled after physicist Gerard O’Neill’s designs for massive cylinders that could house human settlers by spinning to provide gravity.
But launching into space is not only super expensive but very difficult. The news comes just a day after Congress grilled NASA officials over how it failed to come up with plans to get to the Moon by 2024.
Blue Origin is officially offering its new lander as an ascent vehicle for NASA’s 2024 human landing missions.
Bezos confirms Blue Origin will fly people in space this year on New Shepard (but no new announcements so far about those plans.)
— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) May 9, 2019
Up until the announcement, the only clue as to what the event was about was a cryptic tweet with a picture of British explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship called Endurance that he explored the Antarctic with.
A site near the south pole of the Moon was named after Shackleton — a crater with rims that are exposed to almost continual sunlight.