Blue Origin expects Nasa to be customer for human moon mission

Business | 10 May 2019 7:22 pm

Officials of space company Blue Origin gave conflicting answers on Thursday to questions about when the company would land on the moon with and without people.

On Thursday, Amazon Inc tycoon Jeff Bezos said his space company Blue Origin will land a robotic ship on the moon.

Blue Origin Vice President Clay Mowry said 2024 was not a concrete goal for a mission with people and said it was more up to NASA as a potential customer.

Former U.S. lawmaker Robert Walker, a private space consultant who is working with Blue Origin, said it plans for a 2023 launch without people.

Blue Origin in 2017 revealed plans to send an unmanned, reusable rocket, capable of carrying 10,000 pounds of payload, to the moon. The company had a successful launch earlier this month, reusing one of its New Shepard rockets, which barely goes to the edge of space, for a fifth time.

The new moon race has a lower profile than the one in the 1960s. It involves private companies, new countries and a NASA return mission to place astronauts back on the lunar surface by 2024.

While a US$30 million prize for private companies to send robotic probes to the moon went unclaimed last year, one of the competitors, from an Israeli private nonprofit, crashed last month as it tried to land.

China has landed a rover on the moon’s far side. SpaceX last year announced plans to send a Japanese businessman around the moon in 2023. And the Israeli nonprofit said it will give it a second shot.

The first successful moon landing was by the Soviet Union in 1966 with Luna 9, followed by the U.S. four months later. NASA put the first — and only — people on the moon in the Apollo program, starting with Apollo 11 in July 1969.

“The next leap in space will be fueled by commercial companies like Blue Origin and commercial innovation,” said former Obama White House space adviser Phil Larson, now an assistant dean of engineering at the University of Colorado.

Space companies have in the past made big announcements with goals that never came true.

Former NASA deputy administrator Dava Newman, an MIT professor working as a customer of Blue Origin, said this time it’s different. The new engine is the reason, she said, “it’s for real.”--AP. Photo: twitter

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