Amazon founder Jeff Bezos confirmed that his space company, Blue Origin, will launch its next-generation rocket, New Glenn, for the first time in 2021, and also hinted that his company might be capable of helping NASA put humans on the Moon within the Trump administration’s stated five-year time frame.
“We can help meet that time line,” he said. “But only because we started three years ago. It’s time to go back to the Moon—this time to stay.”
Leading up to this dramatic announcement on Thursday at the Washington Convention Center, Bezos couched his vision for his space company in the context of the problems of the world as he sees them. Within the next couple of hundred years, Earth will run out of resources necessary for people to live comfortably, Bezos predicted. Which is why, he says, humanity needs to move into space.
To that end, Bezos revealed Blue Origin’s next-generation rocket, New Glenn, which will begin operations in 2021. New Glenn would be a “heavy lift” rocket, competitive with SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, as well as United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV and in-development Vulcan rocket. According to Bezos, New Glenn will reduce costs by having a first stage that can be reused 25 times and use liquid natural gas as a propellant. Though he did not reveal any pricing information about the rocket, he did mention that the fuel costs per launch would be less than $1 million.
And one of the things that rocket may launch? One of the answers came immediately as Bezos—to great fanfare—showed off a large mock-up of the company’s proposed Blue Moon lunar lander. According to Bezos, the lander will use liquid hydrogen as fuel—just as the company’s New Shepard rocket does today. It will be capable of landing autonomously and be equipped with cameras, lidar and other sensors to map terrain. It will also be configurable in order to handle a variety of missions such as carrying a rover—or humans—to the surface.
Again, there wasn’t any information provided about how much it will cost for a company to buy a mission on the Blue Moon. However, Bezos did reveal that Blue Origin already has customers.
“We already have a bunch of customers for Blue Moon, some of whom are in the audience,” he said. “They’re going to be deploying science missions to the Moon as well.”
Bezos couched these product announcements in the context of his vision for the future, which for him means humanity migrating out to O’Neill habitats–gigantic, miles-long space stations envisioned by physicist Gerard O’Neill in the 1970s, are where humans will live and work comfortably, and conduct heavy industry, Bezos said. This will leave Earth “zoned for residential and light industry,” he said.
Building grandiose habitats—or even more relatively modest goals like any kind of permanent settlement in space or on the Moon—is not the job of this generation, but the next, according to Bezos. He sees his goal as building the infrastructure necessary for it to happen. “It’s this generation’s job to build that road to space so future generations can release their creativity,” he said.
The company also released a promo video for its lander, which you can view below.