Thursday 22 August 2019

Bezos plans to send spaceship to moon and backs Trump's 'lunar outpost' goal

Lunar launch: Jeff Bezos at the unveiling of a mock up of his unmanned lander ‘Blue Moon’. Photo: AP
Lunar launch: Jeff Bezos at the unveiling of a mock up of his unmanned lander ‘Blue Moon’. Photo: AP

Joey Roulette

Billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos unveiled a mock-up of a lunar lander being built by his Blue Origin rocket company and touted his moon goals in a strategy aimed at capitalising on the Trump administration's renewed push to establish a lunar outpost in just five years.

The world's richest man and Amazon.com's CEO waved an arm, and a black drape behind him dropped to reveal the two-storey-tall mock-up of the unmanned lander dubbed Blue Moon during an hour-long presentation at Washington's convention centre, just several blocks from the White House.

The lander will be able to deliver payloads to the lunar surface, deploy up to four smaller rovers and shoot out satellites to orbit the moon, Mr Bezos told the audience, which included Nasa officials and potential Blue Moon customers.

His media event followed US Vice-President Mike Pence's March 26 announcement that Nasa plans to build a space platform in lunar orbit and put American astronauts on the moon's south pole by 2024 "by any means necessary", four years earlier than previously planned.

"I love this," Mr Bezos said of Mr Pence's timeline. "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."

While Mr Bezos went out of his way to praise Mr Pence's timeline, the billionaire has been the target of repeated criticism from President Donald Trump, who has referred to him as Jeff "Bozo". Mr Bezos also owns the 'Washington Post', which Mr Trump has frequently targeted in his broadsides against the news media.

In their lunar ambitions, however, Mr Trump and Mr Bezos are very much in harmony. Mr Trump in 2017 made a return to the moon a high priority for the US space programme, saying a mission to put astronauts back on the lunar surface would establish a foundation for an eventual journey to put humans on Mars. If re-elected next year, 2024 would be Mr Trump's final full year in office.

At his presentation, Mr Bezos unveiled a model of one of the proposed rovers, roughly the size of a golf cart, and presented a new rocket engine called BE-7, which can blast 4,535kg of thrust.

Privately held Blue Origin, based in Kent, Washington, is developing its New Shepard rocket for short space tourism trips and a heavy-lift launch rocket called New Glenn for satellite launch contracts. A Blue Origin executive told Reuters last month the New Glenn rocket would be ready by 2021. Mr Bezos said that launching humans on suborbital flights would take place later this year on New Shepard.

Blue Origin has previously discussed a human outpost on the moon.

Irish Independent

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