Forward-looking: Billionaire Jeff Bezos spent an hour on Thursday outlining his vision for the future of his space startup Blue Origin as well as humanity. He wants his company to build the infrastructure that will one day allow future generations to colonize space.
At a speech in Washington, Jeff Bezos revealed Blue Moon --- a huge lunar lander that can transport 3.6 tons of cargo to the Moon's surface. The craft has been in development for three years and will be used to shuttle scientific equipment and other payloads, maybe even humans.
The Blue Moon will be powered by Blue Origin's new BE-7 engine, which is capable of 10,000 pounds of thrust. Engineers will be test firing the BE-7 for the first time in West Texas sometime this summer.
Bezos indicated that he is behind sending people up as well. Regarding US Vice President Mike Pence's goal of having humans on the Moon by 2024, the Amazon head said he was all for it.
"I love this," he told the DC crowd. "It's the right thing to do. We can help meet that timeline but only because we started three years ago. It's time to go back to the Moon --- this time to stay."
He said that if they equipped the Blue Moon with "stretch tanks" it would be able to transport an additional 2.9 tons of cargo. The extra space would be enough for a "crewed ascent vehicle."
The Washington Post notes that Bezos did not indicate whether he would be seeking contracts from NASA for payload deliveries, but considering that he is reportedly burning through about a billion dollars per year on Blue Origin, contract requests seem likely.
However, Bezos stopped short of saying we should colonize the Moon. His vision is to build colonies called O'Neill cylinders, named for their creator Gerard O'Neill.
These free-floating colonies are made up of two counter-rotating cylinders as to cancel out gyroscopic effects that would knock them out of alignment to the sun. Each tube would be five miles in diameter and twenty miles long. The rotation would provide artificial gravity and energy would be supplied via solar panels on the tubes' exterior.
Bezos imagines a million people living in each cylinder in climate-controlled utopias.
"This is Maui on its best day all year long," he said. "No rain. No earthquakes. People are going to want to live here."
Of course, this is not likely something that Bezos can finish in his lifetime. He said his job is to "build the road" that could lead to such colonization. The only two obstacles he sees are the costs associated with entering space and discovering ways to utilize off-planet resources.
Both problems are priority items that Blue Origin has been working toward with the New Shepard launch system and the Blue Moon lander. He believes that if we can build the infrastructure, future generations can accomplish almost anything in space.