“It’s time for America to go back to the Moon and this time to stay.”
Until the last year, Jeff Bezos has kept the plans for his rocket company, Blue Origin, largely under wraps. Since then, he has talked about doing suborbital space tourism flights, building an orbital rocket, and now he has begun to open up about ambitions beyond low Earth orbit. And unlike SpaceX and its Mars ambitions, Blue Origin has its focus on the Moon.
The Washington Post first reported on the "Blue Moon" concept Thursday evening, which Bezos has articulated in a seven-page white paper sent to NASA leadership and President Trump's transition officials over the last two months. The proposal outlines a plan to build a lunar spacecraft and lander to deliver supplies to the South Pole of the Moon, where scientists believe there are abundant ice resources and almost continuous solar energy.
Later Thursday night, during an awards event hosted by Aviation Week, Bezos explained the philosophy behind this idea. "We are hoping to partner with NASA on a program called Blue Moon where we would provide a cargo-delivery service to the surface of the Moon, with the intent over time of building a permanently inhabited human settlement on the Moon," he said. "It’s time for America to go back to the Moon and this time to stay. We can do it. It’s a difficult but worthy objective."
In the document, Bezos said this enterprise could only be done in concert with NASA and that his company would help establish cost-effective tools to carry out the development of a lunar settlement. The spacecraft could launch on an Atlas 551 rocket built by United Launch Alliance. Alternatively, it could go up on NASA's under-development Space Launch System, which could deliver considerably more payload, more quickly. Significantly, Bezos said he was also ready to put his own skin into the game. "I’m excited about this and am ready to invest my own money alongside NASA to make it happen," the white paper states.
Ars has previously reported that the Trump administration is likely to make lunar exploration a priority over the Obama administration's previous goal of humans on Mars in the 2030s. This seems probable for several reasons—costs, the geopolitical significance of the Moon, and water resources at the lunar poles that could provide the foundation of an in-space fueling system for rockets and spacecraft.
Although the Trump administration has yet to make any announcements about its intent for space policy, the recent activities of private space companies are telling. SpaceX has begun talking about lunar space-tourism missions around the Moon. Robert Bigelow, the founder of Bigelow Aerospace, has begun discussing the use of his expandable modules for habitats in cislunar space, near the Moon. And now Blue Origin is offering up lunar plans of its own.