This is a rendering of Blue Origin's Blue Moon lander. Photo courtesy of Blue Origin
May 9 (UPI) -- Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos unveiled plans Thursday to land humans on the moon by 2024 -- in a new lander called Blue Moon.
The company held a news conference in Washington, D.C., to announce the plan and updated its website with new descriptions and images.
"Blue Moon can land multiple metric tons of payload on the lunar surface," the website said. "The larger variant of Blue Moon has been designed to land an ascent vehicle that will allow us to return Americans to the Moon by 2024."
Blue Origin is based in Kent, Wash., and has built a 750,000-square-foot plant for its New Glenn rocket just outside Kennedy Space Center. It plans to launch the powerful space vehicle from Cape Canaveral.
The New Glenn is expected to launch for the first time in 2021. The company also is renovating Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
"How can you say anything but 'That's awesome,'" said Dale Ketcham, vice president of government and external relations at Space Florida, the state's economic development agency. "Of course, we will ask what Florida can do to help Blue Origin, but it's a good thing for America in general."
Tony Tallancich, director of launch operations for United Launch Alliance, called the Blue Origin announcement incredibly exciting. The alliance is a launch provider for military and commercial satellites formed in 2006 as a joint venture between longtime defense contractors Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
"We're making real steps forward to having a permanent presence on the moon, and then take the next step to other planets," Tallancich said.
According to Blue Origin, the Blue Moon lander technology builds on the company's experience with its smaller New Shepard rocket, which has undergone tests in Texas. The lander would have liquid hydrogen-liquid oxygen propulsion, precision guidance, vertical landing and landing gear systems.
"Blue Moon's precision guidance and descent sensors utilize machine learning technology to accurately land anywhere on the lunar surface, starting with its first mission," the company said.
Fuel cells on the lander would allow for long mission durations and the ability to last through the lunar night, according to Blue Origin.
The top deck and lower bays would accommodate a wide variety of payloads, while lower mounting locations would allow access to the lunar surface and off-loading. A video posted on the company website shows the spacecraft landing on the moon and deploying a rover.
Bezos, founder of Amazon, started Blue Origin in 2000. The company said recently it now has about 2,600 workers in several sites.
The company already plans a 90-acre expansion of its facility in Florida, paying NASA just over $20 million for the new land.
Bezos and Blue Origin previously have mentioned going to the moon in general terms. Bezos unveiled a model of the Blue Moon lander at his event Thursday. NASA also is developing a rocket, the Space Launch System or SLS with the Orion space capsule to return humans to the moon.
Blue Origin tweeted Thursday, "We're ready to support @NASA in getting there by 2024 with #bluemoon."
In July, NASA will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the historic first time people walked on the moon. Vice President Mike Pence recently challenged NASA to return to the moon by 2024 in an accelerated schedule for the space agency.
Blue Origin is focused on reusable launch vehicles to lower the cost of reaching space.
The leader in commercial NewSpace companies, Elon Musk's SpaceX, already launches regular missions for NASA and for private companies, lands the boosters and reuses them. Musk has focused more on landing humans on Mars, although he has tweeted photos of a SpaceX rocket sitting on the moon and signed up a tourist to ride in a rocket around the moon.
SpaceX's manned missions suffered a setback when its Crew Dragon capsule exploded in a test fire April 20 at its Cape Canaveral Air Force Station site, although the extent of the setback or delay isn't known yet.