There are two well-known crazy rich guys building rockets right now, and while Elon Musk and SpaceX tend to get most of the attention—mostly because they are actually doing real things in space—Jeff Bezos and his company, Blue Origin, have been developing some interesting launch vehicles and other space hardware, including a new lunar landing system unveiled yesterday. The lander is called Blue Moon, and it’s interesting in that it’s not a single-purpose lander like the Apollo LEM, but appears to be a platform for multiple lunar landing mission types.
The lander sort of seems like the descent stage of the Apollo LEM after years of working out, intense accessorizing, and a massive growth spurt.
The Blue Moon lander is capable of landing over 14,000 pounds of payload on the moon, and that cargo can be distributed between compartments in the main body of the lander and on the upper deck, which can lower rovers and other cargo down to the surface with special crane mechanisms.
The main engine on the lander is a liquid-hydrogen and liquid-oxygen-fueled re-startable, throttleable engine called BE-7 that makes over 10,000 pounds of thrust. That’s almost the exact same as the old Apollo lander’s descent stage engine.
A crewed version of the Blue Moon has been planned as well, adding a pressurized ascent stage on the upper cargo deck, much like the original Apollo LEM.
It’s worth noting that the landing pads seem small compared to Apollo hardware, but it seems, according to Bezos, that the Apollo landing pads were oversized because nobody was really sure how dense the lunar surface would actually be.
Elon Musk has lunar ambitions as well; maybe the two billionaires can arrange to land on the moon at the same time, and treat the universe to a one-sixth-gravity lunar billionaire fight.