Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos space venture company Blue Origin is working on a landing system that could send astronauts to the moon as early as 2024 – but it also leaves options open. choose to put a ton of cargo onto the lunar surface a year earlier.
Blue Origin lead scientist Steve Squyres outlined the current state of the plan to ship Amazon-like goods to the moon today in a virtual symposium led by the Center for Research and Policy. presented by the University of Washington.
The idea is not entirely new: Blue Origin launched the idea of its Blue Moon cargo landing craft with the Trump administration in early 2017, even before President Donald Trump took office. And a Blue Origin executive mentioned 2023 for the cargo landing more than two years ago during a Seattle regional space conference.
But Squyres ‘remarks aimed at asserting that the 2023 mission, which will provide an initial test of technology for the crew’s landing system, remains part of Bezos’ big vision of creating the present. Sustainable aspect of man on the moon. “We have to go back to the moon, and this time stay,” Bezos told me in 2018.
There is no indication that NASA has placed an order to ship cargo, but Squyres said that if proceeding is finally given, the mission that has not been carried out will target a location not far from the target. choose to land in 2024.
“NASA talks about the Artemis base as our first base on the lunar surface,” he said. “And here is your chance to start doing this. This landing craft in 2023 can transport up to 1,000 kg, a whole ton of cargo, to the surface. Some of those goods could be emergency supplies, tools, spare parts, a moving vehicle for the crew if NASA is prepared in time. “
That could set the stage for not only the planned landing in 2024, but also subsequent missions. “From this downstream, we envision sending larger crews to the lunar surface, transporting cargo to the lunar surface to build that permanent presence,” said Squyres.
Blue Origin is working with industry partners – including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper – to develop a system that could land astronauts on the moon and bring them back from the lunar surface to put stations in space. The rudder-less cargo landing craft will not require the ascent module Lockheed Martin is building for a landing system capable of supporting crew.
For its value, SpaceX and Dynetics are also working on moon landing systems, and SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell has been talking about sending an unmanned Starship cargo mission to the moon by 2022.
Squyres, who joined Blue Origin last year, is very familiar with what’s needed for extraterrestrial robot landings. While studying at Cornell University, he served as a principal investigator for NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity expedition missions to Mars.
Today Squyres notes that NASA is working on a number of probes to test the technologies needed for the Artemis moon expeditions. One such probe is the VIPER rover, which is expected to be launched to the south pole of the moon by the end of 2022 or 2023. VIPER will evaluate the prospect of water ice extraction that could be used as resources for activities on the moon.
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Squyres said the technology demonstrations targeting the extraction and use of lunar water are a “very, very active field of research right now” for NASA and its partners. But he said more innovation will be needed to support a sustainable human presence on the moon.
“When you talk about what you’re going to build on the surface of the Moon, I think the most immediate need is a landing and launch pad that will help in safe flight operations at a base where people and infrastructure are present. floor, ”he said.
Without such buffers, Squyres said, ground touches and rocket takeoffs would have the potential to explode rock and lunar soil everywhere.
Shirley Dyke, head of Purdue University’s Resilient Extraterrestrial Habitat Institute, said lunar soil, also known as regolith, could be used as construction material on the moon. But she says a large knowledge gap will have to be filled first.
“We don’t have much information about regolith,” says Dyke. “I should say we know the basic properties and basic content, but what we don’t know is variation – the range of possible different materials as you go around other locations. each other on the moon. “
Moon builders will have to find substitutes for at least one of the fundamental components used in Earth-style construction, Dyke said.
“There is a magical material here on Earth called Portland cement,” she said. “And that doesn’t exist on the moon.”