WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Jeff Bezos, billionaire billionaire of Blue Origin, announced plans to land a spacecraft called "Blue Moon" on the lunar surface.
During an exclusive presentation yesterday (May 9) at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Bezos presented the details of Blue Moon and all options for exploring the Earth's natural satellite.
From new technologies to possible missions with crew to the lunar surface, there is much to unpack at Bezos' presentation. We'll explain what Blue Origin is up to with Blue Moon and explain the design of the spacecraft and some of its gimmicks.
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[Image: © Blue Origin]
Blue Moon is a relatively large lunar module designed to carry scientific payloads, lunar rovers, and even It can also bring small satellites as a "bonus mission" on the Put in the lunar orbit, Bezos said.
Blue Moon is somewhat similar to NASA's old Apollo lunar modules, but there are some notable differences. In addition to the sleek design, the huge spherical fuel tank labeled "Blue Moon" in large blue letters on the side is the most eye-catching.
It also has much smaller landing pads or "feet" at the bottom of its landing legs. This was because the Apollo-Lander engineers were worried that the lunar soil would be so soft that the lander would sink too far, but the ground was firmer than they thought, Bezos said.
While the Apollo Landers were designed specifically for human missions on the lunar surface – and therefore human hands were required for the use of scientific payloads – Blue Moon is a fully autonomous robotic spacecraft with built-in mechanisms for storing scientific equipment. including the moonrover. Using a crane-like device known as a davit system, the lander gently lowers the payload from its main deck to the lunar surface. The davit system can be adapted to different payload types while throwing up to four large rovers on the moon.
Other tricks and tricks include a star tracking system and a flash lidar that allows the spacecraft to navigate autonomously by looking at stars in space and features on the lunar surface. "There is no GPS on the moon," Bezos said.
"Now that we have mapped the entire Moon in great detail, we can use those already existing maps to tell the system what to look for in relation to craters and other features, and it can be relative It uses the actual terrain of the moon as a signpost. "With this navigation system, Blue Moon will be able to land within 75 feet (23 meters) of its destination landing place, Bezos said.
The lander will use the new Blue Origin BE-7 engines, which the company will test this summer, Bezos said. These new engines are powered by a combination of liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX), which is "not what Apollo did," Bezos said. Although Apollo's command modules – which remained in orbit while the lunar modules surfaced – used LH2 / LOX as fuel, the lander ran on battery power.
"We now know a lot about the moon, something we did not know in the Apollo days or even 20 years ago," Bezos said. "One of the most important things we know about the Moon today is that there is water .It is in the form of ice. It is in the permanently shaded craters on the poles of the Moon, and is water Unbelievably valuable resource: With electrolysis you can split water into hydrogen and oxygen, and you have propellant. "
The LH2 / LOX engines not only provide better performance, but are also powered by natural resources based on the That is, when scientists find a way to mine the hydrogen from the water ice of the moon . But Bezos seemed convinced of the feasibility of this plan. "Ultimately, we will be able to extract hydrogen from this water on the moon and fuel those vehicles on the lunar surface," he said.
Blue Moon has a payload bay of 7m (23ft), with its four fully extended landing legs about 4m (14ft) long. When the lander is fully loaded, it weighs about 16.5 tons (15 tons). When the lander reaches the lunar surface and burns almost all the fuel, it weighs only about 3.3 tons (3 tons).
By comparison, the Apollo lunar modules that brought astronauts to the Moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s were 23 feet tall and weighed 4.7 tonnes (4.3 tonnes) without propellant. The Moon Lander proposed by Lockheed Martin is slightly larger and heavier. This lander, who would also use LH2 and LOX as a propellant and has not yet been named, would be about 14m tall. Even with the fuel tank empty, the lander would weigh 24 tons – more than seven times the dry weight of Blue Moon. When the fuel tank of the Lockheed Martin Lander is full, the module weighs a whopping 68 tons (62 tons).
Blue Moon may look smaller than Lockheed's lander but has a larger payload capacity. It will be able to deliver payloads worth about 4 tons (3.6 tons) to the lunar surface, compared to 1.1 tons (1 ton) for the Lockheed lander. Blue Moon's "Stretched Tank" variant can take up to 7.2 tons (6.5 tons), including an additional ascent stage – and some additional fuel – that would allow astronauts to visit the lunar surface.
A lander for astronauts?
Although the Blue Moon Moon The lander is designed for one-way trips to the moon, the extended variant with ascent would allow astronaut tours. Once the astronauts left the surface, they could hypothetically return to NASA's Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway a proposed lunar space station that would orbit the Moon, although Bezos did not detail where the Blue Moon crew members are going Once they left the moon.
NASA is aiming to have some form of its Moon Gate in orbit within the next five years as the agency can not comply with the Trump administration's ambitious bid to land astronauts in 2024 on the moon. without this critical piece of infrastructure.
"Vice President Pence recently said it was the declared policy of this government and the United States of America to bring American astronauts back to the moon within the next five years," Bezos said. "I love that, it's the right thing, we can help to keep that schedule."
Blue Origin has not officially offered NASA its lunar landing concept as a contender for the agency's 2024 mission, but NASA plans to start recruiting private enterprise proposals by the end of this month.
However, Blue Origin does not need a NASA contract to launch Blue Moon. According to Bezos, the company has already acquired paying customers, many of whom were present at the grand unveiling. "People are very excited about this ability to land their cargo, their rovers and their scientific experiments precisely on the surface of the moon, which is no longer possible today."