One week after SpaceX announced plans to orbit two paying customers around the moon, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and owner of The Washington Post, announced his own plans to change the face of human space travel; by landing 10,000 pound shipments of supplies on the lunar surface in his own space craft by 2020.
Blue Origin, Bezos’ private space company, may not have garnered as many headlines as their larger competitor, SpaceX, in recent months, but they too have been making leaps toward maintaining a continued private sector orbital presence. Blue Origin boasts a number of successful launches themselves, including recent testing of their reusable New Shepard vehicle, a capsule designed to ferry human beings into orbit and equipped with a “full envelope escape system” that will allow astronauts to eject from the spacecraft mid-flight if anything were to go wrong.
Now, Bezos plans to begin construction on the Blue Moon spacecraft – an autonomous ship that, according to a seven-page memo being circulated in the White House, would be capable of depositing 10,000 pound payloads on the Lunar surface and return to earth to be reused for further shipments. According to Bezos, this “Amazon-like” shipment delivery method will allow Blue Horizon to serve as a frequent supplier for a permanent or semi-permanent moon colony.
The Blue Moon will not be designed or equipped to transport human beings to the moon, despite Blue Origin’s efforts to produce a safe means to deliver humans into low earth orbit. The two tasks may seem similar, but the dangers of traveling to the moon are far greater – a trip to the International Space Station would require the Blue Origin New Shepard ship to cover approximately two hundred and nineteen miles each way, amounting to a round trip of just a few days. A trip to the moon, on the other hand, would require covering nearly 240,000 miles one way, and would likely take a week or so to return. Outfitting a craft to support human life for that distance and duration is no small feat – as it has only been accomplished by one organization in history to date, and will soon be attempted by the second, SpaceX.