(It's beginning engine tests this year.) Given the huge delays and cost overruns of NASA's official moon-mission rocket, the Boeing-lead Space Launch System, the US government may welcome a deus ex machina from startups like Blue Origin, especailly given the Trump Aministiration's wildly ambitous goal to return humans to the Moon by 2024.
Taking up most of the stage, the mockup of the lunar lander-dubbed Blue Moon-has been carefully designed in secret for the past three years.
Billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, the founder of rocket company Blue Origin, will unveil plans on Thursday for missions to the moon tailored to the United States government's renewed push to establish a lunar outpost in just five years, people familiar with the matter said. Trump in 2017 made a return to the moon a high priority for the US space program, saying a mission to put astronauts back on the lunar surface would establish a foundation for an eventual journey to put humans on Mars.
It is supported by four legs, with an upper deck where equipment can be fixed. This is an incredible vehicle and it's going to the Moon.
In addition, he also announced the Blue Moon lunar lander, which is capable of taking people and payloads to the lunar surface. Astronauts have not walked on the moon since 1972. It will be capable of carrying scientific instruments and also rovers for humans.
The goal is to land on the Moon's south pole, where ice deposits were confirmed in 2018.
The water derived from that ice can be broken down to produce hydrogen, which could then fuel up the spacecraft for further missions across the solar system.
Other companies will be competing to build pieces of Gateway, an outpost that NASA plans to put into orbit around the moon as a way station for astronauts headed to the moon's surface.
With his new announcement, Bezos is likely angling to get NASA's attention once again.
"The next leap in space will be fueled by commercial companies like Blue Origin and commercial innovation", said former Obama White House space adviser Phil Larson, now an assistant dean of engineering at the University of Colorado. Lockheed Martin proposed its own lander concept some months ago.
This would involve the construction of artificial worlds in space, inspired by designs first proposed by the late physicist Gerard K O'Neill, one of Bezos's heroes, meant to give humanity an escape route in case of limited resources on Earth. Bezos is likely to frame his strategy to align with that timeline in a bid to attract funds from the U.S. space agency, one of the people said.
"We are going to build a road to space", Bezos said.
Blue Origin is also working on a rocket engine for a lunar landing. It is aiming to deliver the New Glenn rocket by 2021, while launching humans in a suborbital flight later this year atop its rocket-and-capsule New Shepard.