WASHINGTON — In a fastidiously choreographed occasion akin to an announcement of a new iPhone, Jeffrey P. Bezos unveiled a moon lander.
Mr. Bezos, the founder and chief govt of Amazon, additionally owns Blue Origin, a rocket firm. In a conference middle ballroom right here, Mr. Bezos described on Thursday a dreamy, formidable imaginative and prescient of the longer term: a trillion individuals in area, residing not on moons or planets, however bucolic area colonies in a fashion initially envisioned by a Princeton physicist, Gerard Okay. O’Neill.
“This would be an incredible civilization,” Mr. Bezos stated.
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The area colonies can be constructed by future generations. Mr. Bezos stated what he and others at present can do is begin constructing the infrastructure. In the short-term, that features a lunar lander, Blue Moon, a glossy car that grew to become seen as a curtain in entrance was yanked away.
“We are going to build a road to space,” Mr. Bezos stated. “And then amazing things will happen.”
During his speech, Mr. Bezos gushed concerning the specs of the lander, the effectivity of the engines and how a lot it may carry, a lot as an Apple or Samsung may boast concerning the new capabilities of their newest smartphones.
He additionally made a direct pitch to NASA and the White House — that this may assist meet President Trump’s aim, said by Vice President Pence, to ship astronauts again to the moon by 2024. He prompt that solely Blue Origin would be capable to have a lander able to fly that rapidly. “We can help meet that timeline,” Mr. Bezos stated, “but only because we started three years ago.”
He spent the primary half of the presentation promoting the concept of area and countering criticisms that area exploration is a frivolous pursuit that diverts individuals’s consideration from urgent issues on Earth.
But he argued that humanity should ultimately push into area.
Rising power consumption is essential to elevating the usual of residing for extra individuals, however “We will run out of energy,” Mr. Bezos stated. “This is just arithmetic. It’s going to happen.”
At that time, to stay on Earth would require rationing and declining alternatives. But the remainder of the photo voltaic system affords nearly limitless assets. “Do we want stasis and rationing or do we want dynamism and growth?” he requested rhetorically. “This is an easy choice. We know what we want. We just have to get busy.”
Mr. Bezos based his rocket firm in 2000, which implies that it has been round longer than the opposite, better-known billionaire rocket firm, Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Mr. Musk started SpaceX in 2002.
But for the first decade and a half of its existence, Blue Origin operated quietly. When one of its rockets crashed during a test flight in 2011, a week passed before Mr. Bezos acknowledged the failure.
In 2016, Mr. Bezos finally invited journalists for a visit to Blue Origin’s headquarters in Kent, Wash., south of Seattle, and described his vision of millions of people living and working in space.
On Thursday, Mr. Bezos seemed to take indirect aim at Mr. Musk’s vision of establishing a colony on Mars. The Amazon founder said giant space colonies — rotating to provide artificial gravity — would be a much more practical solution to settling humans across the solar system. Mars, the moon and other destinations would not provide all that much space to live, and they are distant and largely inhospitable.
The colonies Dr. O’Neill envisioned would be much more inviting. “This is Maui on its best day all year around,” he said. And people could still easily go back to Earth.
For now, Blue Origin is still in the early stages, far behind the accomplishments of SpaceX. Two years ago, Mr. Bezos said he would be selling $1 billion a year in Amazon stock to finance Blue Origin. Mr. Bezos will retain control of Blue Origin after his divorce this year.
The company is conducting test flights of its suborbital New Shepard rocket. That spacecraft is designed to take space tourists on short hops into space, where passengers will experience just a few minutes of weightlessness before New Shepard’s passenger capsule returns to Earth’s surface.
The company conducted its latest test — the 11th — this month. Mr. Bezos said that the first flights carrying people will occur this year.
Outside NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Blue Origin has built a new factory for manufacturing a larger rocket, New Glenn. Mr. Bezos described it on Thursday in detail, and its first flight is to occur in 2021. He said it has been designed from the beginning to be capable of eventually taking people to orbit.
In the last couple of years, the Trump administration has revived plans to send astronauts back to the moon, and NASA last year announced a road map that included turning to commercial companies for sending experiments and cargo to the lunar surface.
The Blue Moon lander is larger and more capable than what other companies have been developing. The cargo version would be able to land 8,000 pounds on the surface. On the stage next to the lander was a mock-up of a rover that looked like a cousin of the ones that NASA has sent to Mars.
A stretched version of Blue Moon, with larger propellant tanks, could carry larger payloads of more than 14,000 pounds — including a module that carries astronauts and provides the propulsion for getting off the moon again.
A scientific advisory board includes Harrison Schmitt, the NASA geologist who walked on the moon during Apollo 17, and Steven W. Squyres, a Cornell planetary scientist who was the principal investigator for NASA’s Opportunity and Spirit rovers on Mars.
“I think it’s great,” Dr. Squyres said afterward about the Blue Moon spacecraft. The scientists have been advising Blue Origin about the types of science that could be done on the surface of moon.
NASA is aiming to explore craters near the moon’s South Pole where water ice is believed to exist. The water molecules can be broken apart into hydrogen and oxygen, which could be used for rocket fuel. (The choice of hydrogen and oxygen as Blue Moon’s propellants was to take advantage of this eventually.) The resources would also be handy for astronauts — water for drinking, oxygen for breathing.ng.
After laying out his vision, Mr. Bezos announced plans to encourage children to become more interested in space. He showed a photograph from the early days of Amazon.
“Big things start small,” he said. Then, he walked off the stage.
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