Blue Moon

Jeff Bezo's Blue Origin began before Elon Musk's SpaceX, but has been as secretive and under-wraps as SpaceX has been in the public eye. (As somebody said, their control of the media and their own message would impress even the Chinese communist party.)  

Today Blue held a big event (even it was secretive, admission by invitation only) with lots of imagery showing 20 mile long free-floating space colonies (of the generation starship class) that rotate to simulate gravity. (It's not a new idea, these are basically 1970's-vintage O'Neil Cylinders.) This is what Jeff Bezos wants to do rather than settle Mars. (Too far away for effective logistics.) He foresees the day when most people have left Earth and live in these. (I'd love to see it, but not in my lifetime.)

Ok, ok, it's out there. Jeff Bezos' version of Elon Musk's "aspirational". It's his long-term vision, like Elon's is a self-sustaining Mars colony.

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So how to build them? It would be way too expensive to lift all the materials off Earth. But, Jeff says, we are lucky that we have the Moon nearby. It has low gravity that would be easy to launch from and he foresees it being mined extensively and becoming the site for much of the Earth's heavy industry. Zone the Earth residential and light-industrial he says.

To kick-start that, Blue is providing a few more details about its already announced Blue Moon project. This coincides with Trump and Pence's directions to NASA to return humans to the Moon, this time to say. Jeff thinks that's great and applauds it. Apparently Blue is hoping to get some NASA lunar funding and contracts (like SpaceX has done for satellite launches, space-station resupply and commercial crew.

Blue Moon consists of a lander that will be launched by Blue's really large multiple reusable New Glenn rocket, currently under development. It will be able to land all kinds of payloads on the Moon, including a crew cabin for astronauts, rovers or other cargo that would sit on top of it. 3 1/2 - 6 1/2 tons payload to the lunar surface.

Sounds like a 3 part plan (with my own take on each part's plausibility):

1. Return humans to the Moon. (Doable in the next five years.)
2. Eventually industrialize the Moon. (A generation or more off...)
3. Even more eventually, create giant free-floating space colonies that might someday support most of the human population. (A long ways off, centuries if ever.)

Here's Jeff and his lander. 

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If you like what Jeff wants to do, Spend More at Amazon! (I'm doing my part.)

Here's a short Blue Moon video:
The space community seems to be underwhelmed. Ignoring the O'Neil cylinder space colony stuff, which is just a sci-fi dream at this point, Jeff's vision is basically a redo of Apollo. That's what his Blue Moon lander amounts to.

His New Glenn rocket apparently has a reusable first stage, but throws away its second stage. He also seems to be ignoring orbital refueling, which is the central piece of SpaceX planning. SpaceX's Falcon SuperHeavy with the Starship atop it promises to be 100% reusable. Refueled in orbit, the Starship is intended to be able to deliver 100 tons and/or 100 passengers to the Moon's surface.

That's a totally different proposition, more like what a transport aircraft could deliver on Earth. We aren't going to see permanent Moon settlements, let alone Moon mines and Moon factories, until we have that kind of high-capacity/low-cost transportation.

The one advantage Blue has is that their Blue Moon vision appears much more doable in the short term, with less risk. SpaceX's vision is much more of a leap and will take longer to perfect. (The SuperHeavy booster isn't built yet and the challenge of reentry for the Starship still needs to be solved.) But the promised payoff is a lot larger too.

I think that people were hoping for more from Blue. They operate in secrecy and are funded by the richest man on Earth. So speculation about what they were secretly doing got ahead of the facts. The consensus seems to be that their presentation today was basically just sending a message to NASA and Washington -- America wants to go back to the Moon? Give us the contract, in a few years we will have a lander and a rocket ready to do it.
(May 10, 2019 05:10 AM)Yazata Wrote: . . . The one advantage Blue has is that their Blue Moon vision appears much more doable in the short term, with less risk. ...

Kind of like an NFL team at the end of the season that needs help from another team losing to make it into the playoffs as a Wild Card. Might pay off if SpaceX suffers some super-major setbacks, but the way that outfit has been bulldozing through the woods so far, it doesn't seem likely in the crystal ball.

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