by Douglas Messier
During a presentation in Washington, DC, today, Jeff Bezos laid out a bold vision humans living in giant cylindrical floating space colonies first envisioned by Gerard K. O’Neill four decades ago.
On a more immediate, practical front, the Amazon.com founder produced updated concept art for Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lander he says would be perfect for landing astronauts at the south pole of the moon by 2024 as the Trump Administration has proposed.
Blue Origin first unveiled plans for Blue Moon in 2007. Bezos said the company has been working on it for the past three years. The lander would eventually be capable of landing up to 6.5 metric tons on the moon. (The company has put up a new web page about the lander here.)
The richest man in the world also unveiled the new BE-7 engine, which is set to undergo testing this summer.
The event was clearly designed to re-introduce Blue Moon to the public and policy makers, and to position Blue Origin for NASA contracts to deliver astronauts and supplies to the lunar south pole.
During the presentation, Bezos took several shots at rival billionaire Elon Musk’s plans to settle Mars. It will be interesting to see of the SpaceX founder responds in some way to Bezos’ taunts.
The Red Planet is too far away to serve as a “Planet B” if Earth’s environment continues to decline. Mining the moon for resources and constructing floating space colonies will allow humanity to continue to grow and preserve Earth’s environment, Bezos said.
Blue Origin had earlier tweeted a photo of Ernest Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, which the famed British explorer used on one of his expeditions to Antarctica. This had fed speculation that Bezos would announce a mission to a crater named after Shackleton at the lunar south pole.
Although Bezos talked about mining Shackleton crater for water that could be used to support a lunar base, he did not announce a specific mission there. Initial Blue Moon flights to the lunar surface would require government funding, at least until a lunar economy develops.