WITH Amazon boss Jeff Bezos promising this week to land humans on the Moon by 2024, the all-new space race is gathering pace.
Nasa is lining up against Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Bezos’ Blue Origin in a who-can-flash-the-most-cash battle of the billionaires.
Each is fighting to build a rocket that can take people to space on the cheap – and almost all of them are gunning for the Moon.
Whoever gets there first will make an inordinate amount of cash via exclusive deals with global space agencies.
They’ll carry cargo and astronauts to Earth’s rocky neighbour for sums in the hundreds of millions of dollars and stake a claim as the world’s pioneering space experts.
Humans haven’t set foot on the moon since 1972. We’ve summed up who’s taking us back – and when – below.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos unveils Blue Origin’s lunar lander called Blue Moon
Blue Origin is a private space firm based in Seattle, USA.
It’s run and funded by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos – the world’s richest man.
Like bitter rival SpaceX, Blue Origin is aiming to make space travel cheaper via reusable rockets.
So far, its work has mostly focussed on brief space flights for tourists, but the firm recently announced intentions to go to the moon.
On Thursday, Bezos unveiled a new lunar lander built by Blue Origin that he hopes will take people to the moon by 2024.
He wants to land a robotic ship the size of a small house dubbed Blue Moon on the rock using a brand new rocket engine.
Bezos hopes to help Nasa build a permanent moon base. He said: “It’s time to go back to the moon. This time to stay.”
Virgin Galactic has not announced any goals to reach the moon, instead sticking to tourist flights to the edge of space.
It’s run by British billionaire Richard Branson, who founded the firm in 2004.
Virgin Galactic sent its first manned flight to space last year – the first private space firm to do so.
Its rocket/plane hybrid SpaceShipTwo Unity soared 50 miles above Earth in December ahead of the company’s first commercial spaceflights for private passengers later this year.
SpaceX is run by Tesla boss Elon Musk
Run by eccentric billionaire Elon Musk, SpaceX is seen by many as the front runner in the new space race.
It regularly launches its reusable Falcon 9 rockets on missions for agencies like Nasa and the US National Security Agency.
SpaceX’s main goal is launching satellites and eventually astronauts for these high-paying punters.
But it also has ambitions to travel further using a new long-distance rocket currently in development, dubbed Starship.
If all goes according to plan, Starship will launch a Japanese billionaire on a round-the-moon mission in 2023.
SpaceX has no public ambitions to actually land people on the moon. Its grand plan involves settling other worlds such as Mars.
Musk has repeatedly said the goal of SpaceX is to help humanity become a “multi-planet species”.
Nasa wants to build a “lunar gateway” in orbit around the Moon, a mini version of the International Space Station.
Its current ambitions are to have the manned Moon base in place by 2028.
Nasa boss Jim Bridenstine said in March: “We will go to the Moon in the next decade with innovative, new technologies and systems to explore more locations across the lunar surface than ever before.
“This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay.”
The plan, which has been in development for a few years, relies on a lunar outpost that Nasa calls Gateway.
This is a permanent space station that orbits the Moon and houses astronauts, laboratory experiments and more.
Once finished, astronauts and robot probes will fly down to the lunar surface to conduct experiments.
Construction on Gateway is expected to begin as soon as 2022, and Nasa plans to complete the base within the next 10 years.
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Nasa revealed plans for a permanent moon base last year, with boss Jim Bridenstine declaring “we want lots of humans in space”.
It recently picked Blue Origin rival SpaceX to front a world-first mission to deflect a hazardous space rock by crashing a spaceship into it in 2022.
And here are the space mysteries that Nasa simply can’t explain.
Are you excited about next week’s Blue Origin announcement? Let us know in the comments!