Amazon founder Jeff Bezos's space company Blue Origin is all set to take the first woman to the moon's surface.
Jeff Bezos on Friday shared a video on Instagram of the testing of the rocket engine that will take the woman for the first time to the moon and said preparations are going on in full swing.
"This is the engine that will take the first woman to the surface of the Moon. The BE-7 is a high-performance, additively manufactured liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen lunar landing engine with 10,000 lbf of thrust - deep throttling down to 2,000 lbf for a precise landing on the Moon. The engine will power @BlueOrigin's National Team HLS lunar lander. Video is from a test this week at @NASA Marshall in Huntsville, Alabama - bringing cumulative test time on the program to 1,245 seconds. #Artemis #GradatimFerociter," Bezos said in his Instagram post where he also added a video clip.
Blue Origin's plan to build lunar lander for 2024 mission
The billionaire gave us a glimpse of the testing engine on Friday as NASA nears a decision to pick its first privately built lunar landers capable of sending astronauts to the moon by 2024.
The BE-7 engine, which Blue Origin has been developing for years, has tallied 1,245 seconds of test-fire time and will power the company’s National Team Human Landing System lunar lander.
The BE-7 is a high-performance, additively manufactured LH2/LOX engine that will power the Blue Origin-led National Team HLS lunar lander. This week's test at @NASA Marshall in Huntsville brings the program’s cumulative test time to 1,245 seconds. #Artemis https://t.co/0MfgLG3mV9 pic.twitter.com/091UTi6YGk— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) December 4, 2020
Washington state-based Blue Origin leads a "national team" as the prime contractor that it assembled in 2019 to help build its Blue Moon lander. That team includes Lockheed Martin Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp and Draper.
It's all part of NASA's Artemis program, which aims to put the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024, a deadline imposed by the White House.
In 2019, Jeff Bezos unveiled plans of sending humans to the moon and setting up colonies on the lunar surface by 2024. Bezos had then unveiled a two-story-tall replica of Blue Moon - an unmanned lunar lander built by his space research company that apart from transporting astronauts to space would also ferry payloads to the lunar surface and launch satellites into the lunar orbit.
Space race: Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin and Elon Musk's Space X
Notably, Bezos' Blue Origin is not the only company working towards setting up human colonies in space. Elon Musk's SpaceX is also working on sending first cargo-carrying mission to Mars by 2022 and the first crewed mission to Mars two years later by 2024.
Blue Origin has vied for lucrative government contracts in recent years and is competing with rival billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX and Dynetics, owned by Leidos Holdings Inc, to win a contract to build NASA's next human lunar landing system to ferry humans to the moon in the next decade.
In April, NASA awarded a lunar lander development contract to Blue Origin's team worth $579 million, as well as two other companies: SpaceX which received $135 million to help develop its Starship system and Leidos-owned Dynetics which won $253 million.
NASA is poised to pick two of the three companies "in early March" 2021 to continue building their lander prototypes for crewed missions to the moon beginning in 2024, an agency spokeswoman said.
But slim funds for the landing systems made available to NASA by Congress, as well as uncertainty over the incoming Joe Biden administration's views on space exploration, have threatened to delay NASA's decision to advance the lunar lander contracts.
(With inputs from Agencies)