Jeff Bezos’s rivals at SpaceX might have their heart set on Mars, but the Blue Origin CEO is bullish about the moon. And his proselytization of the lunar gospel is not just limited to grownups. In a Q&A with kids at Seattle’s Museum of Flight over the weekend, Bezos told his diminutive audience, “I think we should build a permanent human settlement on one of the poles of the moon. It’s time to go back to the moon, but this time to stay.”
GeekWire reports the answer came in response to questions about the museum’s Apollo exhibit, offering Bezos the opportunity to lay out more details about his love of spaceflight, which he says was inspired by Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon in 1969. Bezos has previously stated that his desire for Blue Origin is for the company to spearhead efforts to have “millions of people living and working in space.”
Part of that vision has been an explicit desire to have Blue Origin leverage its technology towards lunar missions.
“We have a proposed to NASA this idea for returning to the moon,” he told the kids. “We would like to set up this cargo service for that. We call the program Blue Moon. We have an architecture and technologies that would allow us to soft-land large amounts of masses on the moon, which would be necessary if you were going to build a permanent human settlement there.”
Blue Moon, he says, would allow people to establish necessary infrastructure and robotics systems which would be essential to making a permanent lunar base livable and operational.
Why the poles? “Just in the last 10 years, we have learned that there is water-ice on the moon,” says Bezos. “This was always thought to be impossible. Certain craters on the poles of the moon, they’re in permanent shadow.” Because the sun never hits those parts, the frozen water located in those areas remains intact. “Once you have water, you can make oxygen,” by splitting it into its constituent elements.
“El Jefe” hits on something key: turning that water into oxygen and hydrogen provides not just a source of replenishing liquid necessary for human life, but also a reservoir for fuel production. The ability to mine that water-ice could turn the moon into something of a fuel depot for deep space missions on the way to Mars or beyond.
Blue Origin has a long ways to go before it gets there. The company has ridden an extraordinary amount of success in the last two years, but it needs to demonstrate the feasibility of bigger spaceflight architectures like New Glenn if it intends to really expand the reach of human beings farther out into space. That’s going to cost an incredible amount of money, although El Jefe doesn’t seem to mind using his other projects — like this little thing called Amazon — to help fund the way.