Everyone’s in a hurry to reach the moon. There are private spacefaring, manned missions and lunar probes galore. Last week, US space agency Nasa announced the Artemis programme that will take astronauts to the moon again by 2024.
Artemis, named after the Greek goddess of the moon and twin sister of Apollo, aims to put the first female astronauts on the moon in the next five years.
The latest private name in this space race is that of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Bezos recently unveiled the Blue Moon lander that can deploy payloads during its journey to the moon and deliver payloads to the moon’s surface.
Blue Origin, the Washington-based privately funded aerospace firm, was launched two decades ago. A lot has changed since then in this race to reach not only the moon, but Mars too. Blue Origin has showcased its New Shepard reusable suborbital rocket system, while work on New Glenn, a heavy lift launch vehicle, continues.
But while both New Shepard and New Glenn are designed to take payloads into space, the Blue Moon lander is meant for lunar transport.
What is Blue Moon?
It is a flexible lander that can not only host and deploy payloads during its lunar journey, but also deliver them once it lands on the moon. The technology is similar to that used for the New Shepard rocket system—vertical landing, precision guidance, etc.
How much can it carry?
The lander can carry and land multiple metric tonnes of payload on the moon, including big infrastructure payloads. According to its official website, a larger variant of the lander has been designed to land an ascent vehicle that will allow astronauts to return to the moon by 2024. An AFP report says the lander will weigh more than 3 metric tonnes when empty, 15 with fuel, and will be capable of carrying 3.6 tons to the lunar surface. “It is supported by four legs, with an upper deck where equipment can be fixed. A large tank of liquefied hydrogen fuel occupies its centre,” the report adds.
What about the landing?
The precision guidance and descent sensors in the lander will use machine learning to accurately land on the lunar surface. Much of this technology comes from Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.