(University of Plymouth) The way humans use land across the British Isles has changed beyond recognition during the past 8,000 years. But what impact has that had on biodiversity and are there lessons from the past that could enhance conservation practices now and in the future?
(Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation) Inequalities in life expectancy by income in Norway were substantial, and increased between 2005 and 2015, according to a study from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in collaboration with the Institute For Health Metrics And Evaluation (IHME). Although considerable differences in life expectancy by income levels were found in both Norway and the USA, the shape of the association differed.
(University of Bristol) The University of Bristol's Smart Internet Lab led the team behind the 5G-enabled Tourism Experience Catalyst project that will be showcased at this year's Digital Transformation World in Nice, France [Tuesday 14- Thursday 16 May].
An artist’s conception shows astronauts exploring the moon after landing. (NASA Illustratiion) The White House is asking Congress for $1.6 billion more than the $21 billion it previously requested for NASA’s budget, to fund what’s now known as the Artemis program to put American astronauts on the moon by 2024. “This initial investment, I want to be clear, is a down payment,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters today. He and other NASA officials got on the line for a hastily called teleconference after about the supplemental request: Under my Administration, we are restoring to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars. I am updating my budget to include an additional $1.6 billion so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) The money would go toward ramping up NASA’s previous plans for crewed missions to the moon starting in 2028. Bridenstine said that 2028 would stand as the target for “sustained operations” on the lunar surface, but that the $1.6 billion for fiscal year 2020 would help NASA to marshal its forces for a single touchdown near the moon’s south pole in 2024. Bridenstine, a former Oklahoma GOP congressman, acknowledged that 2024 was chosen as the deadline in part so that the first human mission to the moon in more than 50 years would come while Trump was still in office. Such a plan would reduce the “political risk” of changes in NASA’s exploration agenda, as has happened in the past, he said. , a special assistant to Bridenstine focusing on lunar missions, emphasized that “we’re going to try to make this nonpartisan … from the start.” Bridenstine added that he’s already talked about the plan with members of Congress. “I think there’s a lot of excitement on both sides of the aisle,” he said. To sweeten the deal, Bridenstine announced a catchy name for the program at the very end of the teleconference. He noted that in Greek mythology, Apollo had a twin sister named Artemis, who served as the goddess of the moon. “Our astronaut office is very diverse and highly qualified,” Bridenstine said. “I think it is very beautiful that 50 years after Apollo, the Artemis program will carry the next man and the first woman to the moon. I have a daughter who is 11 years old, and I want her to be able to see herself in the same role that the next women to go to the moon see themselves in today.” NASA’s revised plan scales down its previous plan for a platform in lunar orbit, known as the Gateway, so that it focuses more tightly on the needs for a single mission putting two astronauts on the surface in 2024. The redesigned Gateway will consist of a power and propulsion element, or PPE, and a mini-habitat also known as a utilization module. To get down to the lunar surface and back, NASA will need a transfer module, a descent module for landing, and an ascent module to come back up from the surface. Bridenstine said the effort will also require NASA’s heavy-lift rocket, known as the Space Launch System, and the Orion deep-space crew capsule with its European-built service module. Of all those components, only the Orion has flown in space, during an uncrewed test flight in 2014. The SLS is due for its first uncrewed test flight in 2020, with a crewed round-the-moon flight in 2023 and the climactic Artemis launch in 2024. Tonight NASA provided a : Human lunar landing system: $1 billion to support the development of a commercial lunar landing system capable of carrying astronauts. That expense will be partially offset by slimming down the Gateway platform, saving $321 million, NASA said. SLS and Orion: $651 million to accelerate development. Exploration technology: $132 million to speed the development of technologies such as solar electric propulsion and conversion of lunar polar ice to water. Lunar science: $90 million to enable increased robotic exploration of the moon’s polar regions in advance of a human mission. Bridenstine said NASA was still working on estimates for what it would need beyond the 2020 budget to hit the 2024 deadline, and to prepare the way for more sustained operations at the moon by 2028. He emphasized that one of the primary goals for lunar operations was to blaze a trail for voyages to Mars. “We need to learn how to live and work on another world,” Bridenstine said. “The moon is a three-day journey home, so if something goes wrong, we know we can make it home. We proved that with Apollo 13. … When we go to Mars, we have to be willing and able to live and work on another world for a couple of years. That’s why the moon is so valuable. It’s so important to use it as a proving ground so we can eventually take our missions to Mars.” NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, Bill Gerstenmaier, said the architecture for the Artemis program would be open to commercial and international partners. “You’ll see a series of flights in that period between 2024 and ’28,” he said. Just a few days after Jeff Bezos’ space venture, Blue Origin, unveiled its design for a lunar lander potentially capable of carrying humans, Bridenstine emphasized that commercial moon ventures would be welcome. “They can build a lander that just integrates with the Gateway, robots, rovers, landers,” he said. “We want this to be open architecture. … I’m talking about the way we do docking, the way we do data, the way we do avionics, the way we do life support. All of these pieces would be interoperable, published on the internet, for anybody who wanted to participate in our sustainable return to the moon.”
This artist’s conception shows Hermeus’ hypersonic aircraft. (Hermeus Illustration) Atlanta-based says it’s won some high-profile seed funding for its effort to develop aircraft capable of flying more than five times the speed of sound The startup’s advisers includes , the former president of Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ in Kent, Wash. And there’s at least one more Blue Origin connection: Hermeus’ chief technology officer, Glenn Case, worked as a propulsion design and development engineer at the company for four and a half years. Hermeus, which was founded last year, is setting its sights on earthly hypersonic flight rather than the space frontier. It’s working on the propulsion technology for aircraft capable of flying faster than 3,000 mph. That could cut flight time between New York and London from seven hours to 90 minutes. “We’ve set out on a journey to revolutionize the global transportation infrastructure, bringing it from the equivalent of dialup into the broadband era, by radically increasing the speed of travel over long distances.” co-founder and CEO AJ Piplica said today in a and Hermeus’ advisers. The financing round was led by Khosla Ventures, with additional participation from private investors. ““Hermeus is developing an aircraft that not only improves the aviation experience with very reduced flight times, but also has the potential to have great societal and economic impact.” said Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures. The investment amount was not disclosed. For what it’s worth, Hermeus in a $100,000 “Rise of the Rest” pitch contest that was sponsored by Steve Case’s and conducted in Florida. The company is also partnering with the . Before starting up Hermeus, the company’s four co-founders — including Glenn Case as well as Piplica, chief product officer Mike Smayda and chief operating officer Skyler Shuford — worked together at , where they led the development of the Air Force’s . The resumes for and also include stints at SpaceX is defined as travel at greater than five times the speed of sound, or Mach 5. It’s one of the aerospace industry’s hottest frontiers, thanks in part to in military applications. Last year, Boeing HorizonX joined in with Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems to invest $37.3 million in British-based Reaction Engines, which is working on its own hypersonic propulsion system. Meanwhile, Spokane, Wash.-based HyperSciences used a to raise $9.2 million for . In today’s announcement of the seed round, Meyerson touted Hermeus’ connections to the commercial space industry. “With experience from the best of New Space companies, the Hermeus team is well-positioned to disrupt the hypersonics industry,” he said. In addition to Meyerson, Hermeus’ advisory board includes: , former executive vice president and general manager at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. , former CEO of the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, with earlier leadership roles at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Army Intelligence Master Plan Office. , founder of Sparkplug Capital and managing director at Shearwater Aero Capital. , former associate administrator for commercial space transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration. , founder and CEO of ZYCI and former director of technical operations at Northwest Airlines.
(Ohio State University) Researchers have built a more efficient, more reliable potassium-oxygen battery, a step toward a potential solution for energy storage on the nation's power grid and longer-lasting batteries in cell phones and laptops.
(Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech)) The collaborative effort of researchers from Skoltech, SB RAS Nikolaev Institute of Inorganic Chemistry, and RAS Institute for Problems of Chemical Physics translated into the development of advanced lead-free semiconductors for solar cells, based on complex antimony and bismuth halides. The results of their study were published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A and showcased on the journal's cover page.
(The Translational Genomics Research Institute) Aethlon Medical Inc. (AEMD) and its diagnostic subsidiary, Exosome Sciences, in collaboration with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the Prostate On-Site Project (POP), announced that Aethlon, TGen and POP will engage with participants for their studies of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in living individuals during the 18th annual Jerry Colangelo Sports Legends Golf Classic in Phoenix.
An artist’s conception depicts a crewed mission to Mars. (NASA / JPL-Caltech Illustration / 2004) As NASA shifts the focus of its space exploration effort to the moon, the advocates of Mars exploration and settlement have a message for future lunar explorers: Don’t get too comfortable. “I do think the moon should be included in the plan for human expansion into space,” Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society and author of a new book titled “The Case for Space,” told GeekWire. “But we don’t want it to become an obstacle for further human expansion into space.” Chris Carberry, executive director of Explore Mars, takes a similar stance. “If we spend years and years and years getting there, and then we decide we’re going to stay there for a long time, it could delay Mars by decades,” he said. Future Mars exploration will be grabbing a share of the spotlight once more this week at the annual , sponsored by Carberry’s nonprofit group in Washington, D.C. Among the speakers on the agenda are NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, other officials from NASA and the European Space Agency who are planning Mars missions, and Paul Wooster, who’s leading SpaceX’s charge to the Red Planet. The three-day conference will be , starting at 8:30 a.m. ET (5:30 a.m. PT) on Tuesday. Bridenstine has been talking a lot more about the moon than Mars lately. “This time, when we go to the moon, we’re actually going to stay,” . Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon as well as the privately held Blue Origin space venture, has been — most recently last week, when he laid out his latest roadmap for . SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk is also on the moon bandwagon, even though Mars settlement remains his long-term goal. “We should have a lunar base by now,” . “What the hell is going on?” The moon looms larger thanks to a push from the White House and Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the recently reconstituted National Space Council. The Trump administration’s timetable calls for putting American astronauts on the moon by the end of 2024, which represents a significant speed-up in NASA’s plans. NASA is still working on an estimate for how much extra an accelerated moon program will cost, and it’s not yet clear how the request for more money will be received by Congress. Why the rush? On one level, it’s an effort to demonstrate America’s continuing dominance in space, amid challenges from China. On another level, planting the U.S. flag on the moon once more would guarantee a historic achievement for what the White House hopes will be President Donald Trump’s second term. But in the big picture, the moon serves as a proving ground for farther-out space odysseys. The fact that it’s a mere 240,000 miles away, rather than the tens of millions of miles for Mars, reduces the risk and expense for crewed missions. Mars advocates such as Zubrin and Carberry agree with the argument up to that point. But they’re wary about how NASA intends to execute the plan. “The question for Trump and Pence is, are they willing to do what has to be done?” Zubrin said. In Zubrin’s view, NASA’s current approach to moon missions is the wrong way to do it. The mission architecture calls for the construction of an outpost in lunar orbit, known as the Gateway, which would be the base of operations for trips going down to the surface. Zubrin sees the Gateway as a “Lunar Orbit Tollbooth” that’s an unnecessary waste of money. In his book, he outlines an alternate mission architecture that uses SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 rockets, plus a yet-to-be-designed Lunar Excursion Vehicle, to transport payloads and people to the moon without a layover in lunar orbit. If it’s adopted, the Moon Direct architecture could arguably eliminate the need for NASA’s heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System. That argument is sure to spark pushback in Congress, which has already funded billions of dollars in development costs for SLS and NASA’s Orion deep-space crew capsule. But the way Zubrin sees it, relying instead on commercial ventures such as SpaceX and Blue Origin is exactly what has to be done. “The thing that could enable the moon and Mars in the coming decade is this entrepreneurial space revolution,” he said. “NASA has only barely begun to make use of it.” Officials at NASA have come around to the view that a permanent presence on the moon is a necessary stepping stone in humanity’s outward push. But Carberry and Zubrin aren’t so sure. They worry that the costs of settling the moon and setting up the infrastructure that’s necessary to extract water ice and other resources could siphon away the funds and political will for Mars missions. “If we’re building a base on the moon, then I can’t imagine going to Mars anytime soon,” Carberry said. Zubrin, meanwhile, took aim at NASA’s proposal to send astronauts to Mars via the lunar Gateway, on a future spaceship called the Deep Space Transport. “That’s not feasible, and furthermore, it’s not even attractive,” he said. For decades, Zubrin has advocated a Mars Direct plan that, like Moon Direct, calls for a series of robotic and crewed missions to the Red Planet without side trips — and he argues that the idea is getting traction thanks to SpaceX’s efforts. “Musk wants to go to Mars,” Zubrin noted. “You don’t see him talking about building a lunar orbiting space station to enable his plan. No one who actually wants to go to Mars would insert such requirements into their mission plan.” For evidence that NASA’s plan needs to go through a paradigm shift, Zubrin points to an, which concludes that the . A more realistic date would be 2037, the study said. The study, commissioned by NASA in response to a congressional mandate, attributes the extra delays to the technological risks involved in developing the Deep Space Transport. Space exploration costs are estimated at more than $217 billion through 2037 — including $120.6 billion specifically for the elements that’d be needed to get to Mars. The rest of the money would go toward development of hardware for Mars surface missions, plus operations in low Earth orbit and on the moon. Meanwhile, Musk is talking about sending SpaceX’s first crewed mission to Mars in the mid-2020s. Even Musk admits that his timetables are often overly optimistic, but Zubrin says the success of SpaceX and other commercial ventures is likely to force policymakers to “take a second look” at their plans for future giant leaps. “We’ve had a shot heard round the world here. … This is going to enable human exploration and settlement of the solar system,” he said. “It will enable it sooner if NASA embraces it fully.”
Floods come faster, last longer and are less predictable than in the past-- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
(NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center) NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite passed over the Southern Pacific Ocean and captured a visible image of Tropical Cyclone Ann in the Coral Sea, off the east coast of Queensland, Australia.
(Regenstrief Institute) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is clarifying its guidelines on opioid prescribing, citing the findings of a review panel led by Regenstrief Institute Research Scientist Kurt Kroenke, M.D. Dr. Kroenke and his colleagues found that many clinicians, policymakers and payers are misapplying the CDC's guidelines, and those actions are negatively affecting patients.
(Kazan Federal University) Big Data has become ubiquitous in recent years, and especially so in disciplines with heterogeneous and complex data patterns. This is particularly true for chemistry.
(Association for Psychological Science) We are more envious of someone else's covetable experience before it happens than after it has passed, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
(University of East Anglia) GPs must be better-equipped to support patients to manage the psychological challenge of reducing their opioid use -- according to new research from the University of East Anglia.The recommendation is part of a toolkit being launched today to help GPs reduce the amount of opioids they prescribe.The toolkit outlines seven areas of best practice to tackle chronic opioid use -- based on international research evidence, the experiences of health organisations and individual practitioners.
Jeff Bezos shows off Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lunar lander in Washington, D.C., this week. (Blue Origin Photo) It’s our choice: a finite world with limited resources, or an infinite universe with unlimited potential. Those were the options presented by Jeff Bezos this week he laid out his plan to colonize the Moon as a first step toward a future with as many as a trillion people in space. Blue Origin, the Amazon founder’s private space venture, at an event in Washington, D.C., this week, and said it was working to help the country achieve the Trump administration’s goal of putting U.S. astronauts back on the moon by 2024. Blue Origin is one of multiple companies expected to compete for the NASA contract to go back to the moon. But a lunar colony would be just the first step in Bezos’ larger aspirations for humans in the solar system. GeekWire’s aerospace and science editor, Alan Boyle, was there for the announcement, and he called in for this special edition of the GeekWire podcast. Listen above, or subscribe in your favorite podcast app. Continue reading for an edited transcript, along with highlights from Jeff Bezos’ remarks at the Blue Moon unveiling. Todd Bishop: Alan, where are you, and what are you covering this week? Alan Boyle: Well, I’m in Washington, D.C. I’m actually calling from a park that’s near the place where Jeff Bezos had his big production to introduce the Blue Moon lunar lander. This happened on Thursday afternoon. It was a big production. Deep blue lights in a darkened ballroom at the Washington Convention Center, and it was all done up in a spacey décor showing off this lunar lander which is probably twice as high as Jeff Bezos was on stage. It was a Hollywood-style reveal, or I might say an Elon Musk-style reveal. Todd Bishop: Yes, and Elon Musk actually had a response, which we’ll get to later. In the meantime, give us the big picture here, because , you were actually interviewing him on stage, and he did reveal that Blue Origin, his commercial space venture, intended to go to the moon. As his signature line goes now, he said, “We will go back to the moon, this time to stay.” What was new in what you heard yesterday and what’s the significance? Alan Boyle: Right. He used that line again with Thursday’s presentation. If you’re really looking at it on a technical level, there were more details available. For example, they’re developing a new type of engine called the BE7 hydrogen-fueled engine that would be used on this lunar lander, and could be refueled using hydrogen recovered from lunar ice. Also, some specifics about how payloads would be sent back and forth. The concept was tweaked with a stretched version. This version of the lander can be stretched to be a little bit bigger and capable of carrying the hardware that folks would need to land astronauts on the surface. That is a significant twist that this is actually being offered to bring humans to the lunar surface as the administration wants to do in 2024. Jeff Bezos during Blue Moon unveiling: “Vice President Pence just recently said it’s the stated policy of this administration and the United States of America to return American astronauts to the moon within the next five years. I love this. It’s the right thing to do. For those of you doing the arithmetic at home, that’s 2024. We can help meet that timeline but only because we started three years ago.” Todd Bishop: What is Jeff Bezos’ big picture goal here? What’s he trying to accomplish and why is he trying to do it? Alan Boyle: Well the biggest picture is having millions of people living and working in space, which is another classic Jeff Bezos catch line. This is about how you get there, what are the steps. Jeff spent a good amount of time during Thursday’s presentation talking about the step-by-step approach, how Blue Origin is working on this suborbital space vehicle called New Shepherd that may start taking people to space later this year. They’re working on an orbital class rocket called New Glenn which would be able to put satellites into orbit and perhaps go beyond Earth orbit. Then there’s Blue Moon which would facilitate perhaps a permanent settlement on the moon as Jeff would like to see. From there you just take advantage of the resources and try to push further out into the solar system. Jeff Bezos: The good news is that if we move out into the solar system, for all practical purposes we have unlimited resources. We get to choose. Do we want stasis and rationing or do we want dynamism and growth? This is an easy choice. We know what we want. We just have to get busy. If we’re out in the solar system, we can have a trillion humans in the solar system, which means we’d have a thousand Mozarts and a thousand Einsteins. This would be an incredible civilization. Alan Boyle: Jeff actually talked about this idea of O’Neill cylinders which, again, he’s brought up before. He talked about this in quite a bit of depth at a presentation at the Museum of Flight in Seattle a couple of years ago. These are self-standing, free flying rotating habitats in space that would be able to accommodate a city’s worth of people and all their things. This is part of the grand vision. It goes back to the concept advanced by one of Jeff Bezos’ mentors, Gerry O’Neill, who came up with this book called The High Frontier where he talked about these cylinders serving as habitats for people living in outer space. That’s a pretty big picture. Jeff Bezos: What could this future look like? Where would a trillion humans live? Well, it’s very interesting. Somebody named Gerry O’Neill, a physics professor, looked at this question very carefully and he asked a very precise question that nobody had ever asked before. It was is a planetary surface the best place for humans to expand into the solar system? He and his students set to work on answering that question. They came to a very surprising, for them, counterintuitive answer: no. Why not? Well, they came up with a bunch of problems. One is that other planetary surfaces aren’t that big. You’re talking about maybe a doubling at best. It’s not that much. They’re a long way a way. Round-trip times to Mars are on the order of years. Launch opportunities to Mars are only once every 22 months, which is a very significant logistics problem. Last, you’re far enough away that you’re not going to be able to do real-time communications with Earth. You’re going to be limited by speed-of-light lag. The kids sitting here and probably some of the adults, too, don’t even think about playing Fortnite with somebody on Earth, because it’s not going to work. Todd Bishop: Put this in the scheme of everything that’s going on in terms of commercial space. Because if I remember correctly, Elon Musk wants to go to Mars. Jeff Bezos wants to go to moon. Where are we, big picture, and where does this Blue Moon mission fit in? Alan Boyle: It’s kind of concentric circles moving out. There’s a lot happening in Earth orbit relating to constellations of satellites and also commercial methods of putting people into low Earth orbit, specifically the International Space Station and SpaceX and Boeing are involved in that. I was at a satellite conference during this past week during the build up to Jeff Bezos’ announcement, and there’s a lot going on with mega constellations, thousands of satellites that would provide ubiquitous access to the internet and high speed data. Then you go to the moon and because the moon is targeted by the Trump Administration for 2024 and NASA is onboard that bus, everyone is looking to the moon. Even Elon Musk says that the Starship spaceship that he’s developing would be suitable as a lunar lander. Starship could be seen as a big-budget competitor to Blue Origin’s Blue Moon. Then the moon is seen as a stepping stone further outward to Mars. That’s where Elon Musk’s main focus is. It’s not so much a focus for Jeff Bezos. He says that Earth is the best planet. If you’re looking at space as a plan B, it’s really more about preserving Earth as humanity’s plan A to put more of the industry into outer space and leave Earth as more of a residential district in our interplanetary metropolis. After Mars, you’re looking farther and farther out, and then you get into the science fiction realm, or at least you’re talking about what’s going to happen in the 22nd century. A lot of folks are speculating where do you go from there. It gets less and less real sounding the further out you move. Todd Bishop: What were your impressions of the Blue Moon lander, seeing the mock up in person? Alan Boyle: I was frankly kind of astonished because I’ve seen renderings of the lander before, and I kind of imagined it as something that had a top on it like a tabletop, that it’s like a billiards table in space. This is huge. I was amazed to see how big the full-sized mock-up is. It’s more like, oh gosh, I don’t know if there’s a vehicle that quite compares to it in size. Bigger than a helicopter that’s for sure. Think about a helicopter maybe scaled up to twice the size. That was the thing that struck me the most. That was the show stopper for me, just to see the curtain literally being pulled away and to see this huge thing with Jeff Bezos giving a guided tour. Jeff Bezos: This is Blue Moon. It’ll soft land, in a precise way, 3.6 metric tons onto the lunar surface. The stretched tank variant of it will soft land 6.5 metric tons onto the lunar surface. The deck is designed to be a very simple interface, so that a great variety of payloads can be placed onto the top deck and secured. On the left-hand side you can see our star tracker, so that this vehicle can autonomously navigate in space. On the right-hand side, you’ll see an optical communications system that gives us gigabit bandwidth back to Earth. It’s a laser that transmits data back to Earth. We also have X-band for 10 megabit radio. A depiction of the Blue Moon lander on the Moon. (Blue Origin Image) Todd Bishop: It’s got four legs and a giant sphere in the middle. It’s basically got a propulsion cone at the bottom of it. Alan Boyle: That’s the BE7 engine. Then those large spheres are propellant tanks for the liquid hydrogen and the liquid oxygen. Jeff Bezos: Liquid hydrogen. Why are we using liquid hydrogen? This is not how Apollo did it. Why are we using liquid hydrogen as our fuel? Couple of reasons. One, it’s very high performance and so that helps a lot when you’re landing on the moon. After you’ve got to carry all of your propellant to the moon. Second reason we’re losing liquid hydrogen is because 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 and use them. Alan Boyle: There’s a frame around it and there are electricity generating fuel cells in the frame that would take advantage of some of the hydrogen that comes off the propellant tanks. Then there’s a big deck on top, and the top flat deck is where you could put up to four rovers the size of, say, NASA’s Curiosity rover, or in the stretched version you could put what’s called an ascent stage on there, and that would be analogous to the ascent stage that the Apollo astronauts used to lift off from the lunar module during the Apollo missions. Todd Bishop: Is it coincidence that this is coinciding with the build up to the Apollo 11 anniversary, the landing on the moon? Alan Boyle: Well, it’s a good hook, and there is a lot of talk about what might be done in the next few years. Of course, the 2024 date is looming large in the plans for lunar missions. It just so happens that if Donald Trump is reelected 2024 would come toward the end of that second term, and so that’s one of the reasons why it has a little bit of a political cast to it. There are a lot of question marks about whether 2024 was doable. Before the latest push led by Vice President Mike Pence, 2028 was being talked about as the timeframe for a human landing on the moon. They are really going to have to rush it, and NASA is expected to tell Congress in the next week or two how much this is going to cost, and then the real debate begins over how doable this is going to be. Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon and Blue Origin, shows off a mockup of the New Shepard suborbital space capsule during a 2017 conference in Colorado. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Todd Bishop: As you’ve been reporting, Jeff Bezos is selling about a billion dollars worth of Amazon stock per year to invest in Blue Origin his space venture. There’s this funny sort of joke among his friends that the reason he started Amazon was to basically get into space, to support this space venture. I don’t know how much of a joke that actually is. Alan Boyle: He said he would neither confirm nor deny, but you know that he’s got a smile on his face as he says that, as he said to me a couple of years ago. Todd Bishop: One thing that struck me from his presentation was he was talking about customers, people who would use this Blue Moon lunar lander to get their own payloads onto the moon. It was a reminder that this is not philanthropy for him. Jeff Bezos: We also have already a bunch of customers for Blue Moon, many of whom are in the audience. They’re going to be deploying science missions to the moon as well. People are very excited about this capability to soft land their cargo, their rovers, their science experiments onto the surface of the moon in a precise way. There is no capability to do that today. Alan Boyle: I think for Jeff Bezos this is one of the things where he started really with his presentation. He started with this idea of there are a lot of things you can do to help humanity. As you know, the Bezos family has been involved in some of those philanthropic ventures. There are other things that are longer range that can help humanity and that’s where he classifies this space effort, that it’s worth spending some money on this. I know that there’s a lot of question about how much he’s spending and whether this money could be better spent back on Earth. Previously: I think Jeff would probably say, “Well, I’m doing that and other people are doing that. You have to take care of this long range effort as well.” In terms of the customers, these are people who would be mostly flying scientific payloads or engineering payloads perhaps to test equipment in the lunar environment. The impression I get is that Blue Origin would very much like to have NASA be the anchor customer for this. NASA is going to be putting out a solicitation for lunar lander concepts that could be used for human space missions, and Blue Origin definitely wants to get in on that. I got the impression just from the enthusiasm with which Jeff has talked about this over the years and this week as well that even if Blue Origin did lose out to some other company like Lockheed Martin or a SpaceX for having that human lunar lander contract from NASA, I get the impression that work would continue on Blue Moon for other purposes. It’s just that this is kind of the marquee mission, and Jeff would like to be in on this as he would love to be in on, it seems, everything from the cloud to retail. Todd Bishop: You were mentioning those constellations earlier, the satellites that are going to be all around the Earth providing internet access. Amazon itself has not related to Blue Origin directly but potentially working with them possibly down the road. Alan Boyle: That’s an interesting play, and there was a lot of talk about that at the satellite conference, and I’m sure I’m going to try to write up more of my thoughts in a coherent manner about that in the next week or so. Amazon has its own purposes for having these satellites in space. One person compared it to a self-licking ice cream cone, because Amazon could use that satellite network to extend its reach in terms of selling stuff through Amazon.com or providing cloud services or even streaming services for Prime Video. It’s a delicate thing, because Amazon is a publicly held company and you can’t just say automatically that Blue Origin would get the contract for those launches because the shareholders want to make sure that it’s not a self-dealing sort of situation for Jeff Bezos where he is inappropriately using one money from a public venture to shore up his private ventures. That’s going to be a delicate matter as Project Kuiper, Amazon’s satellite effort, proceeds. Todd Bishop: Big picture, what would be your key takeaways from what you saw? Alan Boyle: Blue Origin is really serious about this moon thing, and it’s not just a PowerPoint. That’s been known internally for several years. In fact, some of the people from Blue Origin said, “At last I can talk about this thing that I’ve been working on for three years.” This is real, and it may be a mock-up now, but the amount of effort that Blue Origin is putting into this will, I think, make this a reality. In terms of what it’s used for, that’s yet to be seen. Jeff Bezos is clearly committed to this and like Elon Musk who made a little bit of fun about how much Jeff has been promising but not delivering yet, but, just like Elon, Jeff really once he latches on to something he’s not going to let go. I don’t think he’s going to let go of the moon based on what we saw on Thursday. Todd Bishop: This is a family podcast, so I won’t quote Elon Musk’s tweet or the Photoshopped version of the moon lander that he tweeted. Alan Boyle: It’s basically Elon saying, “Jeff, you’re such a tease.” We’ll leave it at that. Oh stop teasing, Jeff