‘Blue Moon’: Jeff Bezos reveals lunar lander
Following a cryptic tweet last week by Blue Origin, which many suspected alluded to a Moon program, the company’s owner, Jeff Bezos, announced during a May 9, 2019, Washington, D.C. media event that the company is building a lunar lander.
Blue Moon, as it’s called, has actually been in development for three years, according to Blue Origin. It is being designed to send between 3.6 and 6.5 metric tons to the lunar surface and can transport payloads ranging from multiple rovers to a human-rated ascent stage.
The lander’s descent is to be powered by the newly-announced BE-7 engine, which has also been in development for a while and is expected to undergo its first hotfire test this summer.
Consuming liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, BE-7 is “an additively manufactured, high-performance, dual-expander cycle engine” that is planned to generate 10,000 pounds (40 kilonewtons) of thrust.
According to Blue Origin, the lander’s top deck and lower bays are being designed to accommodate a wide variety of payloads. Items on the top are expected to be lowered using a davit-type system inspired by naval vessels.
Additionally, using hydrogen fuel cells, the vehicle would provide “kilowatts of power” to its payloads and allow for long missions that could last through the lunar night.
The media event announcing Blue Moon started with a video of the Apollo 11 Moon landing which occurred almost 50 years ago. Bezos said at the end of the short presentation, “If that doesn’t inspire you, you are at the wrong event.”
Bezos then spoke about how the Earth has limited energy resources and eventually humanity would begin to run out of them. He said conservation can’t prevent that and eventually those resources would begin to be rationed.
“That’s the path that we would be on,” Bezos said. “It would lead for the first time to where your children and grandchildren have worse lives than you. That’s a bad path.”
Bezos said he believes that only through exploring the solar system and utilizing the resources available throughout it can humanity avoid running out of energy resources.
It was already known that Bezos’ ultimate goal is for a future where millions of people are living and working in space. Those people would therefore be the ones to go to space to access its resources and energy.
Speaking about “O’Neill colonies,” an idea proposed by American Physicist Gerard O’Neil in a book published in 1976, Bezos described how humans should be living in space full time, but right now the cost is too high due to a lack of infrastructure.
Bezos said his company’s first commercial rocket, New Shepard, should be carrying people into space on suborbital trajectories later in 2019 and Blue Origin’s next-generation rocket, New Glenn, could have it’s first orbital flight sometime in 2021.
Launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 36 in Florida, New Glenn is expected to be capable of lofting 29,000 pounds (13,000 kilograms) into geostationary transfer orbit, so it should be capable of launching its Blue Moon lander to the lunar surface.
A larger version of Blue Moon is also being proposed to carry an ascent vehicle, likely designed by another company, which would allow American astronauts to return to the Moon by 2024, a goal set in late March Vice President Mike Pence.
“It’s time to go back to the moon,” Bezos said, “this time to stay.”
Video courtesy of Blue Origin
Lloyd Campbell’s first interest in space began when he was a very young boy in the 1960s with NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. That passion continued in the early 1970s with our continued exploration of our Moon, and was renewed by the Shuttle Program. Having attended the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its final two missions, STS-131, and STS-133, he began to do more social networking on space and that developed into writing more in-depth articles. Since then he’s attended the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the agency’s new crew-rated Orion spacecraft on Exploration Flight Test 1, and multiple other uncrewed launches. In addition to writing, Lloyd has also been doing more photography of launches and aviation. He enjoys all aspects of space exploration, both human, and robotic, but his primary passions lie with human exploration and the vehicles, rockets, and other technologies that allow humanity to explore space.