Blue Origin looking to make a ‘Blue Moon’
In the last year, Blue Origin pushed its New Shepard suborbital vehicle in more complex tests, unveiled a reusable orbital rocket, and broke ground on a new factory in Florida. Now the company is looking one step further, revealing a design for a lunar lander at the 33rd Space Symposium.
Blue Origin CEO Jeff Bezos indicated that the “Blue Moon” lander could be used for deliveries to the lunar surface in the 2020s followed by a delivery of lunar ice from Shackleton Crater back to Earth soon afterward.
The lander, which sports four legs and a golden lower stage reminiscent of the Apollo lunar lander, could be launched on Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket, NASA’s Space Launch System, or even a United Launch Alliance Atlas V.
Blue Origin President Rob Meyerson said that Blue Moon’s cargo mission would complement NASA’s crewed Orion missions to lunar orbit or even settlements on the lunar surface.
“We believe that the lunar surface offers valuable resources, with valuable science return that can serve as a location to demonstrate key technologies and serve as an appropriate location for that long-term permanent settlement,” Meyerson said, according to a GeekWire article. “We also believe the Moon is in sequence for long-term exploration of the Solar System, including Mars.”
Meyerson also said that Bezos was willing to put some of his own money into the program.
“We’re willing to invest in its development as part of a private-public partnership with NASA,” Meyerson said. “The more NASA flies SLS, the more they will need commercial logistics delivery services. New Glenn and Blue Moon complement SLS and Orion, enabling NASA’s return to the Moon, and this time to stay.”
First things first
Displayed at the Symposium venue was the company’s New Shepard suborbital test vehicle as well as the interior of the rocket’s capsule interior.
According to Jeff Foust in The Space Review, Bezos did not make any major announcements regarding the ongoing development of New Shepard, Blue Origin’s first commercial vehicle. Considering the vehicle still in testing, he said he was hopeful that human flights could begin in 2018.
“It’s really going to be when we’re ready,” Bezos said.
Foust reported that Bezos also suggested other future uses of New Shepard: “I’m thinking that it might be interesting to build a small second stage for this New Shepard booster so we could use it to put smallsats into orbit. It would be perfectly capable of being a first stage for a small orbital vehicle.”
Bezos, who owns Amazon.com, said he was selling “a billion dollars a year” worth of Amazon.com stock to pay for operations. Being the largest shareholder of the company, he owns 80.9 million shares, according to Fortune, and would have to sell 1.09 million shares to meed the $1 billion worth of stock.
Regardless, Bezos said he still has his eye on profitable operations for all phases of Blue Origin’s efforts, from suborbital tourism to lunar cargo.
Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida. Leahy's diverse career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofits, as well as the Science Cheerleaders.