Two years ago, the founder of Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos – yeah, the guy who owns Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) – promised NASA: if she wanted to establish a lunar base, Blue Origin would collaborate with the space agency to build a rocket – and a lunar lander – to help build that base.
The rocket in question is New Glenn, currently in development, with the intention of becoming one of the most powerful rockets in the world. And the lander? It would be Blue Moon.
Blue Moon Overview
Although Blue Moon was originally envisioned as a cargo ship capable of delivering "experimental, cargo and habitat facilities by mid-2020", Bezos promised in 2017 that it would be a launcher-agnostic spacecraft capable of flying over its own Glenn Rocket, or NASA's new space launch system (also under development), or even at the top of an Atlas 551 of the United Launch Alliance (there is no mention of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, you'll notice.)
But when NASA announced earlier this year that it was soliciting proposals to build its human landing system in order to place astronauts on the moon, Bezos seems to have had an epiphany: Blue Moon could do it too .
Last week, during a closed-door presentation in Washington, Bezos drew the curtain on a Blue Moon model, revealing that it was a fuel cell powered spacecraft capable of providing 3.6 and 6.5 tons of payload including moon strollers) at the lunar surface. Blue Moon will use hydrogen and oxygen to power a new 3D BE-7 engine (also brand new and still untested) to get from the lunar orbit to the surface. . The first version of Blue Moon will be robotic, but a later, larger version should be designed to transport astronauts to the moon.
NASA and Blue Origin finally together?
To refresh your memory, NASA's latest lunar project includes three main steps: From here 2024, the agency wants to have a "lunar descent element" – a lunar lander – moored to a space station "lunar gate" orbiting the moon. From here 2026 he wants to add a lunar ascent built and delivered element, and test both elements as part of an unmanned mission to land on and return to the lunar surface.
Finally, in 2028, NASA plans to repeat this feat with astronauts on board, thus achieving the first lunar landing inhabited for over half a century!
The calendar was recently confused when, in March, Vice President Pence said that a deadline for 2028 was "not enough" and that the official US policy is now to return the astronauts on the moon from here 2024. Not everyone is convinced that five years is enough time to do what NASA said just three months ago that it would take him nearly a decade to accomplish. But Bezos, who spends $ 1 billion a year of his wealth on Blue Origin through the Amazon.com stock sale, says that since he started Blue Moon's development three years ago it is actually achievable.
What happens after
And yet, that it 's 2028, 2026 or 2024 – whatever the date – NASA must first build the equipment for that to happen. Space companies, large and small, ranging from Boeing and Lockheed in the Sierra Nevada at SpaceX, all want to help. And now, we know for sure that Blue Origin will join them in the competition.
The agency has budgeted only $ 30 million to $ 40 million for development, which looks like small beans for many of these companies. That being said, the future winner (s) of the contract (s) to help NASA achieve its mission can hope to secure contracts for tens and hundreds of millions more in order to build, launch and operate the spaceship needed to land on the moon.
This last race in space has just begun – but it's already started.