Bezos Proposes Lunar Plan

Jeff Bezos

Amazon Lunar Prime?

Jeff Bezos has submitted a plan for developing a moon base to NASA and the Trump Administration.

The latest to offer a proposal is Jeffrey P. Bezos, whose space company Blue Origin has been circulating a seven-page white paper to NASA leadership and President Trump’s transition team about the company’s interest in developing a lunar spacecraft with a lander that would touch down near a crater at the south pole where there is water and nearly continuous sunlight for solar energy. The memo urges the space agency to back an Amazon-like shipment service for the moon that would deliver gear for experiments, cargo and habitats by mid-2020, helping to enable “future human settlement” of the moon. (Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, owns The Washington Post.)

“It is time for America to return to the Moon — this time to stay,” Bezos said in response to emailed questions from The Post. “A permanently inhabited lunar settlement is a difficult and worthy objective. I sense a lot of people are excited about this.”

[….]

Blue Origin’s proposal, dated Jan. 4, doesn’t involve flying humans, but rather is focused on a series of cargo missions. Those could deliver the equipment necessary to help establish a human colony on the moon — unlike the Apollo missions, in which the astronauts left “flags and footprints” and then came home.

The prospect of a lunar mission has several companies lining up to provide not just transportation, but also habitats, science experiments and even the ability to mine the moon for resources.

Read the full story.

  • WhoAmI

    Interesting suggestion to put it on an SLS… Would that take the place of the yet-to-be-funded Explorer Upper Stage? It would have to be downsized significantly for an Atlas V, especially to make room for any cargo.

    New Glenn is likely to be too far out on schedule to use, as the estimated pre-2020 initial launch was probably based on 3rd party interests helping fund the project (e.g. NASA). Maybe NASA will redirect SLS funding to be CMCDev (Commercial Moon Cargo) and use it to accelerate development of the New Glenn and SpaceX ITS vehicles.

  • JamesG

    So…. Anyone read the actual white paper yet? Doug?

  • Douglas Messier

    Nope. I guess if Bezos owned Parabolic Arc, I would get leaked documents from the boos. But, alas…..

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes,many options are opening up for NASA.

  • AdmBenson

    It sounds like Bezos is proposing unmanned cargo missions. He’ll need a capsule if he wants manned missions too. If the timeframe to do this is short (4 years of Trump) his only option will be to use CST-100. Boeing would probably be agreeable, if not cheap.

  • AdmBenson

    Speaking of CST-100, Trump might lean on ESA and Japan to purchase some for Ariane-5 and H-2b, respectively. That would be their price for admittance into the Lunar party.

  • windbourne

    Uh, nope.
    Iirc, Cst100 is NOT able to take a high speed re-entry.
    Dragon and Orion can.

  • Robert G. Oler

    but someone has to take them the dark side of the force is very strong

  • AdmBenson

    It’s not for technical reasons that I think CST-100 is the ticket for Blue Origin. The only way back to the Moon in a very short time is if private investment supplements NASA’s budget. In the case of CST-100, Boeing would pay to upgrade the heat shield on their own dime if it was the only way for them to steal business from SpaceX. Orion, while technically more capable and further in development, is paid for solely through NASA’s budget. As such, it literally takes an act of congress to build and use them.

    I made mention in another post that CST-100 could be sold to ESA and/or Japan. If Team Trump uses their power of persuasion on these two, Boeing will have even more incentive to spend their own money to make things happen.

  • windbourne

    uh, right now, I think that team trump would have a difficult time convincing ANY of our old allies to even work with us, let alone launch with us.

  • savuporo

    Run a marathon, before you learn to crawl?

    How is that suborbital flight service coming along, Mr Amazon?

  • Tom Billings

    Then you were not observant during the visit of the Japanese Prime Minister last month. His Party and Trump are quite happy with each other. The Japanese journalists, like those of Europe, are still horrified, but that is to be expected with any non-progressive US President and journalists.

  • Tom Billings

    I’d actually like to see a phased-in approach, where SpaceX sends their 2 customers around the Moon in 2018, Bigelow gets their B-330A station a lift into LLO in 2020 as a crew-tended station, and Blue Origin begins operations from that station with a modified New Shepard as a lander a bit later. The first 5 ton payload for landing should be a propellant generator using water from the ice at Shackleton crater. If they all start within the next 3 months, they *might* make it before the 2020 elections. If not, even the first 2 of them will allow Trump his political desire, to declare that the US is back on the frontier.

  • windbourne

    Actually, I DID watch that. But with the Japanese (like most Asians), that does not matter. That is about face time.

    You need to pay attention to what happens after.
    And Japan has done nothing one way or another.

    At this time, the only Asian nation that likes Trump is Taiwan.
    The rest are waiting to see how trump deals with China. He gave a LOT of bluster about them which is a good thing, but has done nothing (very bad thing in light of all that he said).

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    “The first 5 ton payload for landing should be a propellant generator using water from the ice at Shackleton crater.”
    So find the ice, collect the ice, separate it from the regolith, then split it into LH2 and LOX….all in vacuum at -250 C, in permanent darkness, inside a 4200 metre deep rocky unsurveyed lunar crater. That’ll be one heck of a 5 tonne propellant generator. Perhaps I’m being overly pessimistic, but I doubt it. More likely in a hundred years or more once they’ve installed 500,000 tonnes of industrial and power hardware.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    “Interesting suggestion to put it on an SLS…”
    But there isn’t going to be a second of these one billion dollar rockets available before 2021. I suspect New Glenn will be far more available and affordable than SLS.

  • Tom Billings

    “So find the ice,…”

    “Do that from orbit with a radar on the Bigelow station. Ice’s dielectric constant is different than rock. Land as near as you can to where the ice is.

    “collect the ice, separate it from the regolith, then split it into LH2 and LOX….all in vacuum at -250 C,”

    Yup, …all that.

    Land in the sunlight of Shackleton’s high point for your solar panels. Put down your cable-powered ground mobile unit for drilling.

    Proceed to Ice deposit. Drill into the ice deposit using a heated drill, pump in water hot enough to vaporize more volatiles and let those come back up the drill pipe. The dust that drops out of the gasses in a first separator tank should be set aside for later processing. Cool the gasses to liquid, storing any that need further cooling like Methane, etc. Roll the Ground unit back to the lander. Electrolyze the water. Liquify the propellants. Pump them into your tanks. Repeat until tanks are full.

    As I said, no one should pretend this can certainly be done all by 2020. But by 2020 they can make the beginning that will give Trump his Frontier moment, which is what he is looking for. At the same time, it would serve as an excellent beginning for exploiting resources for lunar settlements.

  • Tom Billings

    Given the state the US military was in when he took office, the changes he has made to deployments are far from nothing. He has moved units in Third Fleet, including a carrier, into the cruising squadron that keeps the seas west of the Philippines open, as a readily available convoy force. The Naval JSDF will notice.

    Still, he must be cautious, given the Joint Chiefs’ recent testimony on the Army and the Navy and the AF readiness. What he has done probably stretches operational capability. But the Navy will take longer to rebuild capability than the Army. You cannot stop and start a Navy, and the logistical support for those Fleets has been butchered, to just keep operations going elsewhere.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    So, all you need to do is heat 100,000,000 litres of water to 600 C and pump it deep below the lunar surface, then collect and process 1000 kg of regolith in order to collect 1 g of H20 and hope that at the end you collect more water than you started with….all in vacuum. An excellent plan.

    “Cool the gasses to liquify the water, storing any that need further cooling like Methane,”
    With the environment at -250 C, cooling should be fairly straightforward.
    You notice, I stay cynical throughout.

  • redneck

    Would you mind reposting this with real numbers? A rational disagreement needs rational numbers. The ones you used here are so far from reality as to make it impossible to know if you have a point.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    My point, and purpose for using a health dose of exaggeration (or perhaps somewhat accurate), is that mining lunar regolith bound ice on any useful scale will require a near industrial sized deployment. Kickstarting a thriving cislunar economy by producing rocket fuel (and drinking water) from sub-surface lunar ice using a couple of cubesats on wheels is decidedly optimistic. Locating the ice from orbit, is simply telling you that, in some given volume of millions of tonnes of regolith, there is some few hundred kilograms of H2O.
    Basically, I think that the regularly expressed optimism on the ease with which lunar ice can be recovered on any useful scale is verging on delusional.

  • windbourne

    Considering that china has not changed tactics, asian nations are paying attention.

  • WhoAmI

    I’m all for New Glenn… but how can they possibly be ready to go ahead of SLS if they haven’t even tested a full-scale BE-4 let alone built a test vehicle (was going to say never built a full-scale BE-4, but news today proves otherwise). The rocket motor is just the start. They still have to build a vehicle, test the vehicle, and attempt to launch it. Add to this the fact their BE-3 vacuum has never been tested in space, there are a lot of unknowns here. At least they have two test stands in case they blow up another.

    The only possibility is if SLS is completely axed and the funding redirected to SpaceX ITS, Blue Origin New Glen, and (possibly) a ULA commercial solution (Vulcan?). That way, the risk would be distributed with at least one likely to succeed in time, and hopefully more than one solution to prevent another SLS monopoly.

  • If you can’t figure out how to exploit and optical and temperature gradient from near continuous sunlight down to continuous deep darkness at 40 K that’s your problem. Get on it.

  • SLS monopoly? Get a grip. That’s seriously delusional.

  • Tom Billings

    Michael, …you do know we are talking about Shackleton Crater? You do know that there are already indications there of spots that are concentrations of ice as high as 15%? You do realize that the radar in orbit will have found these with accuracy in the meter range? You do know that water coming back up through the insulated pipe can be recycled back to be heating more ice? If you don’t know these things, then I suggest you research the topic more thoroughly.

    Please note that I modeled the idea on the same processes that companies in Texas have used for 50+ years to drill for Sulfur, and no, …they don’t do it 100,000,000 liters at a time.

  • Tom Billings

    Michael, what is delusional is your assumptions about what is a “useful scale” of mining. At the start, whatever scale allows you to refill the lander for takeoff with a profitable payload is useful. The first pieces of equipment set down to start this job need not be everything ever set down to do it. Indeed, if the ice deposits are as spotty as so far indicated, putting a huge facility in a single place would be counter-profitable, at best.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Let’s not get too confused; the issue was a mythical BO lander, to be some how launched to the Moon. If New Glenn is not going to be ready by some unknown future date, what is the likelihood of that previously unheard of lunar lander?. If Jeff really has aspirations of lunar landing and development (whatever that means), then surely he has some confidence that New Glenn will be the launch vehicle of choice…in that scenario.

    Don’t think Vulcan is in any way a competitor or alternative to BFS/NG/SLS.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    “You do know that there are already indications there of spots that are concentrations of ice as high as 15%?”
    No, I didn’t know that. Do you know that?. Ice concentrations in excess of 15 parts per hundred you say….I’ll pack me skis and swim shorts then.
    You just put your lander 4 km down in a sunny spot, unfurl your panels and have at it, I’ll be in the next meadow over counting daisies.

  • WhoAmI

    FWIW, Not confused. I was commenting on the article’s suggestion of using the SLS or New Glenn to launch Blue Moon. The article in Bezos’ newspaper used Bezos as a source along with his memo, so it is not speculation. It might be not ideal nor preferred by Bezos, but it is mentioned nonetheless.

    Regardless of Bezos’ confidence in the New Glenn, it is up to Congress (hence the reason for circulating the memo around Washington D.C.). I’m sure Bezos would prefer Congress fund both the Blue Moon as well as fund an acceleration of NG development, hence the reason NG was mentioned in the memo along side SLS. Still, I’m sure he’ll take whatever he can get from Congress.

    Vulcan is definitely not a competitor or alternative to ITS/NG/SLS, but it is powerful enough for a possible BM transport. It is designed to work with ACES, so can handle a BM.

  • WhoAmI

    From Wikipedia: “A monopoly … exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity”. ULA’s SLS is currently the only NASA launch supplier for crewed and super heavy lift which defines monopoly but for the commodity aspect. The goal for going commercial is to make those types of launches more of a commodity. If you only have one commercial supplier to replace SLS, then it is also a monopoly.

  • 1) SLS is not ULA’s launcher.
    2) SLS does not exist, and has never flown.

    You continue to comment on this subject at your own peril.

    It’s your reputation. Anonymity is your friend.

  • The only reason Mr. Bezos has suggested the SLS as a first stage for the BE-3/New Shepard is that it would endear him to NASA, allow him to set a BE-3/New Shepard onto the surface without an upper stage a lot earlier, and finally, it would allow him to publicly salvage a very bad launcher design, at least long enough to get his next generation reusable systems flying.

  • WhoAmI

    1) SLS is not ULA’s launcher.

    Correct. They are one of 4 manufacturers. It is NASA’s.

    2) SLS does not exist, and has never flown.

    True… Where did I say it existed? It is the only funded rocket; it is currently being built; it currently has a manifest; it currently has proven rocket engines with upgrades under test; … Until it is unfunded by Congress, it is more real than any privately funded ink on paper vehicle.

    What is your point, your concern, your reason for getting irrationally upset and lobbing insults in response to a simple side note in a discussion about Bezos suggesting the BM go on the SLS?

  • I could be wrong, but ULA is not involved in the SLS program at all.

    They have ZERO contracts for it, as far as I know. They launch satellites.

    I’m not upset. You’re a blowhard who is totally unfamiliar with this subject.

  • WhoAmI

    I could be wrong, but ULA is not involved in the SLS program at all.

    ICPS

    You’re a blowhard

    Blowhard: a person who blusters and boasts in an unpleasant way.

    I don’t see any blustering or boasting in any of my posts. I’m simply asking questions, learning and responding to incorrect assertions and statements. If I’ve given you that impression, I apologize.

    who is totally unfamiliar with this subject.

    I admit I don’t work in the space industry nor am I a physicist, but that doesn’t disqualify me from posting a comment or question on articles in this blog. I do attempt to research before posting; stay relatively neutral; stick to the facts; and give others the benefit of the doubt as well as credit for good arguments or points conveyed. I’ve even Vote Up many of your posts IIRC. Isn’t this something you aspire to also?

    FWIW, you seem to be much more civil on discussions for articles covering politics, which is hard for most people. Maybe this topic hits closer to home?

  • ICPS is a Boeing managed product. Look it up.

    ULA builds and launches satellites using the Atlas V and the Delta IV.

    I never said you are disqualified for anything. I just impled comment at your own peril until you get up to speed on the admittedly complex nuances of the United States aerospace industry and their products and operations.

    There is not going to be any SLS Heavy Lift monopoly. SLS is a dog.

    The only thing going for it is that it’s not a corn dog.

  • WhoAmI

    Yes… Boeing is the prime, while ULA is the sub who manufactured it in ULA’s manufacturing facility in Decatur, AL, with participation from Boeing. They just shipped it to the Cape last week. It will be replaced in subsequent blocks by the Boeing built EUS.

  • Yes, ULA works for Boeing. Most informed people know that.

    Boeing has a 50% stake in ULA. However, Boeing is prime contractor.

    Again, ULA does not own the SLS, and the SLS is a dog that will never fly.

    SLS is a threat to nothing besides the reputation of the American aerospace industry. It’s a monopoly over nothing except congressional taxpayer funds.

  • WhoAmI

    Agreed. And Congress might take him up on it.

  • What this demonstrates is NASA’s complete failure and inability to conceptualize launch vehicle design. But I already knew that. Since 2001.

    NASA doesn’t do the backs of napkins simply because they don’t know how.

    Propulsion is completely out of the question for NASA as well, obviously.