Amazon boss Jeff Bezos wants to start delivering packages to the Moon. According to The Washington Post, Bezos — who also owns private space travel company Blue Origin — has written an internal report arguing that a good delivery service will be key to establishing a functioning lunar settlement.
Blue Origin’s “proprietary and confidential” white paper was authenticated by Post reporter Christian Davenport, who presumably had to ask his boss (Bezos owns The Washington Post). In the document, Bezos says he hopes to push NASA to develop “incentives to the private sector to demonstrate a commercial lunar cargo delivery service” by 2020, enabling an Earth-to-Moon equivalent of Amazon Prime. The report also includes a description of a new Blue Moon vehicle that would carry as much as 10,000 pounds of cargo, and land on the Moon’s sunny South Pole.
The report has reportedly been given to both NASA and Trump’s transition teams in a bid to get Blue Origin a head start in any upcoming lunar shipping projects. News of the proposal comes during a period of renewed enthusiasm for the Moon, which was largely overlooked during the Obama administration in favor of Mars. It’s said that the new administration may be changing course by pushing for a faster and cheaper return to the Moon before the end of Trump’s term.
Recent news backs up the rumors: NASA has started looking into how feasible it would be to accelerate a crewed launch of the Space Launch System to as soon as 2018. The SLS and Orion crew capsule will orbit the Moon and land back on Earth — but a crewed launch hadn’t originally been planned until 2021. What’s more, on Monday, Elon Musk announced his plans to send two mysterious space tourists on a round-the-Moon, SpaceX vacation.
Blue Origin isn’t planning on sending people to Earth’s closest celestial body. Instead, the company intends to focus on delivering the gear and equipment that people settling the Moon would need. The proposal echoes SpaceX’s strategy for colonizing Mars, which Musk has said will start with establishing cargo routes. The Blue Moon lander might incorporate the same landing technology that allowed Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket to launch and land successfully five times in the last year.
In the white paper, Bezos calls dibs on a parking spot for the lander near the Shackleton Crater on the Moon’s south pole. It’s an ideal landing spot because of the near-continuous sunlight — energy that can power the lander’s solar array. Nearby water could also be used as a source of hydrogen for rocket fuel.
Whether a private company can legally call dibs on a parking spot on the Moon is still up in the air. The Outer Space Treaty bars countries from claiming celestial bodies for their own, but the details are a little fuzzy. These sunny spots on the Moon, for example, are high-value real estate — and some experts argue that routinely parking a piece of equipment on one of them could effectively be appropriating it.
It’ll be an important detail to iron out, because Bezos told the Post the first landing will set the stage for future missions: “Any credible first lunar settlement will require that capability.”