Jeff Bezos’s Grandiose, But Completely Possible, Vision of Space Colonization
By Glynn Cosker
Contributor, In Space News
At a recent media event in Washington, D.C., Amazon founder Jeff Bezos revealed some more details about his new rocket company, Blue Origin, and revealed a prototype of a new lunar landing vehicle. However, that did not make the headlines – something else did.
Bezos informed a hushed audience about his vision for the future: The option for some of us humans to live inside miles-long, earth-orbiting space cylinders, which would serve as colonies reachable from Earth as a day trip via one of Bezos’s very own space vehicles. In addition, we would use the Moon as a convenient pit stop for all of the required natural resources.
The Practicalities of Near-Earth Colonies in Space
So what does the world’s wealthiest person believe will necessitate humankind leaving our planet for these floating space cities? A skyrocketing world population (pun intended) of energy-greedy people that seemingly could do nothing to halt the onslaught of climate change. Actually, that is quite a compelling argument for the massive manmade structures – better known as “O’Neill colonies.”
In 1974, Princeton physicist Gerard K. O’Neill theorized that it was possible to build gigantic, near-Earth habitats in space that would consist of two 16-mile long cylinders – each four miles in diameter. At the time, O’Neill said that these new colonies would be “far more comfortable, productive and attractive” than our world.
Furthermore, O’Neill stated that the materials required – and the engineering involved to build these space cities – were readily available in the mid-1970s, let alone the future. O’Neill calculated that if the two cylinders rotated in opposite directions, then the gravity inside would be “earth-normal.”
O’Neill’s concept seemed quite fanciful at the time. However, most scientists today agree that his calculations and theories are solid – and so does Bezos.
In his presentation, Bezos presented colorful slides showing how the colonies might look on the inside – including neighborhoods, trees, farms, high-speed trains, lakes, rivers, mountains, clouds, a blue sky and even a moose. Bezos also envisioned multiple colonies for various pastimes – including one with its gravity adjusted so that people could go on flying excursions equipped with only a set of artificial wings. He also mentioned a “national park cylinder” – but did not address if – like here on Earth – the federal government would fund the floating space national park.
Jeff Bezos Reveals ‘Blue Moon’ Lunar Lander
Also in play, of course, is the Moon. Bezos knows that the Moon is key to near-earth space colonization coming to fruition.
“Guess what?” he stated. “The Moon also needs infrastructure.” Bezos then revealed a prototype of his 3.3 ton, hydrogen-fueled Blue Moon lunar lander that Bezos and his company have worked on for three years. Also on show was a large lunar rover vehicle, four of which can be stored on and deployed by Blue Moon.
One of the more interesting features of Blue Moon is its landing location accuracy. As Bezos puts it, “there is no GPS on the Moon … and we can land within 75 feet of our target … you use features on the Moon to navigate. Now that we have mapped the entire Moon in great detail, we can use those pre-existing maps to tell the machine-learning system what it should be looking for in terms of craters and other features, and it navigates relative to that.” One can have fun imagining a happy male or female GPS voice saying, “In two miles, turn right at the Sea of Tranquility,” or something similar.
Watch Bezos’s proposed lunar landing:
“People are very excited about this capability to soft-land their cargo, their rovers, their science experiments on to the surface of the Moon in a precise way,” said Bezos.
Bezos’s lofty proposed unmanned missions would precede the eventual landing of men and women by 2024 to fulfill Vice President Pence’s recent bold statement. Bezos quoted Pence as saying, “It is the stated policy of this administration, and the United States of America, to return American astronauts to the Moon within the next five years.” Bezos appended, “It’s time to go back to the Moon; this time to stay.”
Making the Impossible Possible
So, how realistic or probable is all of this moon exploration and space colonization? Bezos clearly thinks that none of it is rocket science. Well, actually… it is, of course, but the idea of new colonies in space is by no means outlandish or foolish. In fact, off-Earth colonization is completely feasible and – given our predicted future – it is sensible and even prophetic.
One only needs to consider that, in the 14th century, most of the world sat undiscovered by the leading nations of the time, and the ability to colonize those undiscovered areas was hundreds of years in the future. Most people back then believed that Europe was the center of the universe and anybody venturing due West on a ship would fall off the world by toppling over a massive waterfall.
The people who colonized America in the 1600s were a few hundred years removed from their ‘flat-Earth’ ancestors. In the same way, the people who will colonize space are a few hundred years removed from the 17th-century scientists who refused to accept the existence of meteorites and said that heavier-than-air flight was 100 percent impossible.
Entrepreneurship and Space Studies
There is no price tag on these future space colonies – and no mention if they will be a luxury expenditure set aside for the wealthiest Earthlings (while the rest of us suffer through overcrowding and a near-apocalyptic, hot existence). However, one thing is certain. Bezos is tapping into two vital components critical to the future of our planet: entrepreneurship and space studies. It is vital to educate generations of scientists in order to make Bezos’s future a reality.
Get started on your Space Studies degree at American Military University.