Designed to deliver science payloads, moon rovers and potentially even astronauts to the moon surface, Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lunar lander is understandably large.
Blue Moon shares a few design similarities with the Apollo lunar modules, but it’s not hard to spot a few noteable differences between Blue Moon and NASA’s lunar predecessors.
Blue moon has an appreciably sleeker design and sports a substantial spherical fuel tank emblazoned with the words “Blue Moon” in big blue letters.
Learning from the experience of previous landers, Blue Moon’s landing pads are tiny compared to those of the Apollo modules.
At the time, the Apollo Lunar modules weren’t sure about the softness of the soil on the moon. So, they opted for larger landing pads, to prevent the lunar module from sinking into the sand.
However, the ground was much more robust than they guessed.
Furthermore, the lander has a number of features that the manned Apollo modules didn’t. That is because a lot of the payload functions are designed to be autonomous.
A hard-working lunar lander
It is essentially a fully autonomous robotic spacecraft. The lunar is equipped with a crane-like system capable of lowering payloads to the lunar surface.
The system – known as a davit system – can be configured for multiple payload types. It can even lower four large rovers to the lunar surface at the same time.
In case you were wondering, there’s no GPS on the moon. Blue Moon can navigate autonomously using a star tracker system and a flash LiDAR device.
Basically, it navigates by looking at the stars in space and the features on the lunar surface. Jeff Bezos said Blue Moon will use its navigation system to touch down within 23 metres of its target. He added:
“Now that we have mapped the entire moon in great detail, we can use those preexisting maps to tell the system what it should be looking for in terms of craters and other features, and it navigates relative to that. It uses the actual terrain of the moon as guideposts.”
In addition, the lander will be making use of the BE-7 engines. It’s designed by Blue Origin which they will be testing later this year.
These engines will be powered by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen partly as the discovery of water on the moon could potentially allow future missions mine hydrogen from the water’s ice and effectively refuel the lander.
“Ultimately, we’re going to be able to get hydrogen from that water on the moon and be able to refuel these vehicles on the surface of the moon,” Bezos said.