After the visionary Elon Musk, the man who wants to build a colony on Mars, it is the turn of another billionaire to expand his business among the stars: Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and the richest man in the world, during a speech at the International Space Development Conference said he wants to help NASA and ESA to colonize the Moon through his company Blue Origin, which we can consider as SpaceX sister.
In order to cope with the costs of developing a reusable carrier, Bezos had to finance the company by selling $ 1 billion worth of Amazon shares each year. The entrepreneur proposes a collaboration between Blue Origin and NASA to turn its Blue Moon lander into reality, which is essential for bringing several tons of construction material needed for the colony on the Moon. But the millionaire, visionary at least as much as Musk, doesn’t stop there: Blue Origin is working to develop
a new technology of nuclear rockets, more efficient and less expensive than traditional liquid propellant carriers his New Glenn rocket, more efficient than the current model New Shepard. In his vision of the renewed space race there is also room for a first-class space station, able to host millions of people by expanding it in the decades to come. He also said that if we do not want to leave a world too narrow for our children and force them to stop growth due to lack of resources, it is vital that humanity expands beyond the Earth. Earth that, in its plans, would have the opportunity to regenerate itself after the hardships suffered by industrialization because heavy industries would be transferred into space or on the surface of other worlds, where there would be no pollution damage, nor for living beings, nor for ecosystems.
However, Bezos has specified that his vision is very forward in time, we talk at least 100 years from now. He, however, hopes that when he’ll be eighty-year-old for the next generation space travel could be a daily routine as it is air travel today. In the immediate future however, we talk about 2019, Bezos plans to inaugurate the first orbital tourist flights.
As a personal consideration I find that Bezos’s plans, at least those in the near future, are in their ambitiousness more feasible than those of Musk: the Moon is much reachable for our aerospace technology, furthermore the future colonists would not be sent to die in a one-way trip months long and without the possibility of coming back to Earth or being rescued if something goes wrong. I also like the idea of moving heavy industries beyond the Earth, but I also realize that it is a future that I will not see and probably not even the next generation will. Henry Ford used to say that technology is revolutionary when everyone can afford it. Today, however, rockets are and remain the prerogative of the richest man on the planet and the 54th (Musk) and they too have to bleed dry their performing companies to finance Blue Moon and SpaceX respectively, so if “playing” with rockets is a quest even for such rich people it means that technology is far from mature. Personally I doubt that we will see the famous orbital tourist flights next year (which, among proclamations of various companies, were given for the next year since 2005 at least). We will see how the technology will evolve, it will take time but anyway I think that until the electromagnetic motors are ready, the reusable rockets represent today the best on the market for space flight.
In conclusion, if Musk’s idea of using gigantic rockets as orbital liners reminded me of 50s sci-fi, Bezos’s makes me think of that from 70s-80s, like the huge Nostromo mining vessel in Alien or the mines on Io in Outland. Well, maybe sooner or later an entrepreneur will arrive with ideas in line with the decade in which he lives 🙂