Blue Origin plans to establish a colony on the moon, and it could take the first step toward that goal as early as 2023, or even sooner. The space-faring firm, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, confirmed in a story this week that the Blue Moon project is moving ahead with plans to land on the moon within that timeframe, as a stepping stone toward a more ambitious settlement.
Business director A.C. Charania told GeekWire at the Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace conference last week that “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. I think we are very excited to now implement this long-term commercial solution with NASA partnership.” Charania said at the conference that the first step in Blue Moon is to develop the capability “to be able to land multi metric tons on the lunar surface” as “any permanent human presence on the lunar surface will require such a capability.”
It’s not the first time Blue Origin has outlined such a plan. Bezos explained in May 2017 that he believes the company should build a permanent human settlement “on one of the poles of the moon,” sending supplies initially and using “advanced robotics with machine learning systems on board” to lay the foundations for future colonization. Bezos noted that the discovery of water ice at the moon’s poles in the last decade changes the approach to such a settlement, as scientists can use the resource to produce oxygen.
The company is working hard to reach these goals. The New Shepard space vehicle is undergoing test flights for sub-orbital launches, in which the craft reaches the edges of space and slowly descends back to Earth in a parachute. In December 2017, the company conducted a short trip into space, using the trip to conduct an array of experiments like microgravity suction and zero-gravity glow.
Blue Origin has big plans after these initial successes. New Shepard is expected to host people this year, while the New Glenn orbital flight vehicle will start testing in 2020. All this is in keeping with the company’s Latin motto gradatim ferociter, or “step by step, ferociously.”
While the plan is impressive, it may seem out-of-date before it gets off the ground — Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to send an unmanned mission to Mars as early as 2022.