2018-07-07 18:24:37 UTC
The Digest: Blue Origin Plans to Begin Colonizing the Moon No Later Than
Blue Origin/NASA/Victor Tangermann
by Kristin Houser July 5, 2018 Off World
LUNAR UPDATE. A.C. Charania, business development director for Blue
Origin, says the private aerospace company plans to complete a lunar
landing mission before 2023, which would eventually “enable human lunar
return.” That is: send humans back to the Moon.
That’s an earlier, and more specific, timeframe than anyone at the
company had specified up to this point — last year, the Washington Post
reported that its Blue Moon project — which includes plans to colonize
the Moon, as well as an Amazon-like Moon delivery service — was slated
for the mid-2020s.
This news about Blue Origin’s came during the Space Frontier
Foundation’s NewSpace conference in Renton, Washington, in late June,
according to a GeekWire report.
A LITTLE HELP FROM NASA. Blue Origin first revealed its ambitions for a
Moon colony in March 2017. “It is time for America to return to the Moon
— this time to stay,” Bezos told The Washington Post. “A permanently
inhabited lunar settlement is a difficult and worthy objective. I sense
a lot of people are excited about this.”
At the time, Blue Origin was looking to NASA and the U.S. government for
assistance in the endeavor. Since then, it’s become one of 10 companies
chosen to share $10 million in NASA funding for lunar research. That has
apparently helped the company to move up the timeframe for when Blue
Moon might be accomplished.
“Blue Moon is on our roadmap, and because of our scale, because of what
we see from the government, we brought it a little bit forward in time,”
Charania said during the NewSpace conference. “I think we are very
excited to now implement this long-term commercial solution with NASA
A CROWDED SPACE. Blue Origin isn’t the only aerospace company eying a
return to the Moon. SpaceX has floated plans for future Moon
colonization, while NASA, China Manned Space Agency, and Russia’s space
agency Roscosmos all have manned lunar missions in the works.
With so many organizations in on the effort, it seems like it’s only a
matter of time before humans take that one small step once again.
Blue Origin targets moon landing by 2023 as an early step toward lunar
BY ALAN BOYLE on July 3, 2018 at 3:15 pm
A.C. Charania, Blue Origin’s business development director, addresses
the NewSpace conference with a picture of his company’s founder, Jeff
Bezos, looming in the background. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)
Blue Origin, the space venture founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos,
is laying out a plan to support the creation of permanent settlements on
the moon, starting with a lunar landing mission within the next five years.
The Kent, Wash.-based company’s roadmap was laid out most recently last
week during the Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace conference in
Blue Origin’s business development director, A.C. Charania, said the
company’s Blue Moon program is “our first step to developing a lunar
landing capability for the country, for other customers internationally,
to be able to land multi metric tons on the lunar surface.”
“Any permanent human presence on the lunar surface will require such a
capability,” he said.
Charania said “we’re actively working on the descent stage for Blue
Moon, the capabilities, the partnerships that are required to enable
that service … to start going back to the moon with larger and larger
Blue Moon could help answer longstanding scientific questions about the
moon’s origin and evolution, delve into lunar resource identification
and extraction, and “enable human lunar return,” Charania said.
Charania told GeekWire that the first Blue Moon landing could take place
even before 2023.
Blue Origin’s executives have talked about a five-year time frame for
lunar landings several times over the past year, but Charania’s comments
made clear that the company is looking for international partnerships as
well as support from NASA.
“Blue Moon is on our roadmap,” Charania said, “and because of our scale,
because of what we see from the government, we brought it a little bit
forward in time. I think we are very excited to now implement this
long-term commercial solution with NASA partnership.”
In May, Australia’s InnovationAus.com quoted another Blue Origin
executive, Ted McFarland, as suggesting that Bezos and international
representatives could announce a back-to-the-moon initiative in
September at the International Astronautical Congress in Germany.
(German news media quoted IAC officials as saying they haven’t yet heard
from Blue Origin about that idea.)
NASA is already ramping up its plans for lunar landings, in response to
initiatives endorsed by the Trump administration. This month, the space
agency is due to solicit proposals for commercial lunar payload
services, with proposals due in mid-August and the first landings due by
the end of next year.
Landers capable of putting several tons on the lunar surface are in
NASA’s roadmap for the early 2020s, which meshes with Blue Origin’s time
frame. Other companies, such as Masten Space Systems and Moon Express,
are also working on medium- to heavy-class lunar lander concepts.
Blue Origin has lots more on its agenda for the next few years, backed
with a billion dollars a year from Bezos:
Its suborbital spaceship, New Shepard, is in the midst of uncrewed
flight tests and could start carrying test passengers by the end of 2018.
Its BE-4 rocket engine, fueled by liquefied natural gas, is being
manufactured in Kent and tested at the company’s West Texas facility.
Its orbital-class New Glenn rocket, which will make use of BE-4 rocket
engines, is under development at Blue Origin’s Florida factory and is
due to have its first launch in 2020. Several satellite launch deals
already have been struck for the early 2020s.
Charania said Blue Origin now has more than 1,500 employees, which is
double the figure from two years ago. The company’s website lists more
than 230 job openings, including spots for training coordinators, flight
controllers and an astronaut experience manager.
Blue Origin hasn’t yet set the price for suborbital space trips, but
it’s expected to start selling tickets next year.
Love space and science? Sign up for our GeekWire Space & Science email
newsletter for top headlines from Alan Boyle, GeekWire’s aerospace and
GeekWire aerospace and science editor Alan Boyle is an award-winning
science writer and veteran space reporter. Formerly of NBCNews.com, he
is the author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big
Difference." Follow him via CosmicLog.com, on Twitter @b0yle, and on
Facebook and Google+.
‘Everybody is a gamer’: Inside the first-ever Xbox video game
competition at the Special Olympics
TLDR Editor’s Picks: GeekWire’s top Amazon stories of the year (so far)
Filed Under: Space Tagged With: Blue Moon • Blue Origin • New Space
Subscribe to GeekWire's Space & Science weekly newsletter
Enter your email address
Send Us a Tip
Have a scoop that you'd like GeekWire to cover? Let us know.
See MoreGeekWire Events
GeekWire Summit 2018
Bezos and Blue Origin
Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin propose ‘Amazon-like’ delivery to the moon in
Blue Moon lander during Space Symposium panel
Blue Origin space venture slips in a sneak peek at design of Blue Moon
Blue Moon lander
Moon ambitions get a reality check — plus a boost from Apollo moonshot
Blue Moon lander
Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin makes its pitch to Congress for delivering cargo
to the moon