This past week, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos laid out his vision for the future of humanity’s presence in space. The richest man on the planet (on paper, at least) spent about an hour talking about how and why he believes we should someday develop massive free-floating space structures that can house millions of people off-world. And then he made the case for how his company Blue Origin will build the infrastructure required to make those big dreams come true.
That all starts with the rockets Blue Origin is building, but it also now includes Blue Moon, the lunar lander Bezos unveiled on Thursday. Blue Moon is what his company will use to someday deliver science equipment and humans to the surface of the Moon. It can soft land between 3.6 and 6.5 metric tons on the lunar surface, and it’s likely to be a key part of the company’s desire to mine for water ice at the Moon’s poles.
Bezos has spoken publicly about his grand vision for colonizing space (and how it differs from, say, Elon Musk’s) before, most notably at the 2016 Code Conference. But at this week’s event, he offered a more focused and detailed explanation on the reasons why he believes we should take on this massive endeavor. A major one is that Earth has finite resources, especially energy, he argued. Space, on the other hand, offers the promise of unlimited resources. All we need is cheaper, more reliable access, according to Bezos.
Not everyone agrees with those claims. Some believe we could eventually exhaust the solar system’s resources just like we are on track to do here on Earth. There’s also a very good argument to be made about how we haven’t yet figured out how to live sustainably on this planet, and that we should figure out that massive problem before we create new ones for our species. He’s also basing his vision on extremely capitalist ideals (like limitless growth) at a time when some of those ideals are regularly being called into question by high-profile members of the US government, let alone some of its citizens.
This wasn’t the first time we’ve heard Bezos’s view of the far-out future, but it was the first time we’ve seen him lay it out on his own terms in such a public manner. It also won’t be the last we’ll hear of it. Bezos is likely to recycle parts of this speech as we get closer to some of Blue Origin’s biggest milestone events, like the first launch of its mega-rocket New Glenn in 2021 or any attempt it makes at trying to send Blue Moon to the lunar surface. In many ways, it’s a commercial directed at NASA, one we’re probably going to see play on a loop until the space agency decides whether to use Blue Origin’s tech in its own attempt to get back to the Moon by 2024.
In other words, it raises a lot of questions that we’re all likely to spend the next few years debating.