WASHINGTON – Amazon magnate Jeff Bezos said Thursday he would send a spacecraft to the moon, joining the resurgence of lunar interest half a century after people first stepped there.
Bezos said his space company Blue Origin will land a robotic ship the size of a small house, capable of transporting four vehicles and using a newly designed rocket engine and provisioned rockets. It would follow a version that could take people to the moon over the same period of time in which the return of 2024 proposed by NASA.
Bezos, who was dwarfed by his model of the vehicle Blue Moon in his presentation on Thursday, said: "This is an incredible vehicle and goes to the moon."
He added: "It's time to go back to the moon, this time to stay."
The announcement for the generally secret space company came with all the brilliance of an Apple product launch in a dark convention ballroom dazzled with bright stars on its walls. The astronauts and other space luminaries sat in the audience under blue lighting before Bezos revealed the square ship with four long, thin landing legs.
Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, left the scene without providing details, including launch dates, customers and the plan for humans on their rockets. He spent more time talking about his dream of future generations living in colonies of space stations in orbit than in concrete details about Blue Origin missions.
Blue Origin officials gave conflicting answers to questions about when the company would land on the moon with and without people. Blue Origin vice president Clay Mowry said 2024 was not a specific goal for a mission with people and said he was more dependent on NASA as a possible client.
The former US representative UU Robert Walker, a private space consultant who is working with Blue Origin, said he plans a release in 2023 without people.
Blue Origin in 2017 revealed plans to send an unmanned and reusable rocket, capable of transporting 10,000 pounds of payload, to the Moon. The company had a successful launch earlier this month, reusing one of its New Shepherd rockets, which barely reaches the edge of space, for the fifth time.
The career of the new moon has a lower profile than that of the sixties. It involves private companies, new countries and a return mission from NASA to place astronauts back on the lunar surface by 2024.
While a $ 30 million prize was not claimed last year for private companies to send robotic probes to Luna, one of the competitors, of a private Israeli nonprofit organization, crashed last month when it was trying to land.
China has landed a rover on the other side of the moon. Last year, SpaceX announced plans to send a Japanese businessman to the moon in 2023. And the Israeli non-profit organization said it would give it a second chance.
The first successful landing on the moon was made by the Soviet Union in 1966 with Luna 9, followed by the United States four months later. NASA put the first and only people on the moon in the Apollo program, starting with Apollo 11 in July 1969.
"The next leap in space will be driven by commercial companies such as Blue Origin and commercial innovation," said former White House space adviser Phil Larson, now dean of engineering at the University of Colorado.
In the past, space companies have made big announcements with goals that never came true.
NASA's former deputy administrator, Dava Newman, an MIT professor working as a Blue Origin customer, said this time it's different. The new engine is the reason, he said, "it's real."