Jeff Bezos unveiled the Blue Moon Lander today at a press event. (Credit: Blue Origin)
On Thursday, Blue Origin founder and Amazon owner Jeff Bezos unveiled the Blue Moon landing vehicle, a spacecraft that can deliver up to 6.5 tonnes of cargo, and possibly crew, to the surface lunar. The announcement was made at a press conference in Washington, D.C. Along with Blue Moon, he unveiled his new BE-7 rocket for the landing vehicle, which he says has been in development for three years. If everything goes according to plan, the company will try firing the rocket for the first time this summer. Together, Bezos sees these developments as a way to return humans to the surface of the moon, "this time to stay."
The White House is committed to doing exactly that, returning humans to the lunar surface by 2024, and Bezos says his landing is a way to achieve that goal.
It is a bold claim for a spacecraft company that only reached the limit of space, and is never in full orbit. But the company says it is about to make history in space flight. Blue Origin's most familiar spacecraft, the New Shepherd, is designed to carry humans on suborbital flights. Bezos had previously announced a launch with crew on the rocket in 2019, and on Thursday he again committed to do it this summer.
Definite statement here.
"We're going to be flying humans at New Shepard this year, that's incredibly exciting."
– Eric Berger (@SciGuySpace) May 9, 2019
While New Shepherd has been testing for years, it would be an impressive feat in light of the recent claims and setbacks of SpaceX and Boeing.
However, SpaceX and Boeing have successfully flown the cargo to the International Space Station several times, while Blue Origin is not programmed to reach Earth orbit until 2021. That's when they plan to launch the New Glenn, a two-stage rocket with a reusable first stage. Eventually, this vessel could take both the crew and the cargo, much of it, into space. But that first flight is still a few years away.
Lunar blue lander lander. (Credit: Blue Origin)
To take humans even further, Bezos discussed a version of the Blue Moon Lander that could carry a crew capsule.
Bezos also shared his long-term vision of space and lunar exploration during today's event, including the O'Neill cylinders, an idea much loved by space settlement enthusiasts. These would be self-sustaining space stations complete with gravity, thanks to the effects of rotation.
If this year sees a test fire of the new BE-7 and a successful New Shepherd flight with crew, then Blue Origin will be on track to take the next big step in human spaceflight.