But it may take a couple hundred years, if the billionaire founder of the Seattle-based online retailer gets his way. Bezos said he expects as many as a trillion people to eventually live in space colonies, and to do that there’s a lot of systems and real estate development here on Earth and in outerspace that needs to happen first.
In a 51-minute presentation, Bezos, who also founded rocket company Blue Origin, outlined a plan for a moon lander that would open the door to space colonization that leaves Earth as a place for residences, universities and light industrial, or in other words, distribution centers and warehouses.
When space colonies open, “Earth ends up zoned residential and light industry,” said during his presentation. “It’ll be a beautiful place to live, it’ll be a beautiful place to visit, it’ll be a beautiful place to go to college and to do some light industry. But heavy industry and all of the polluting industry, all the things that are damaging our planet, those will be done off Earth.”
His e-commerce giant Amazon has been an enormous boon to industrial real estate across the country as the company’s explosive growth has translated to an endless need for distribution centers and warehouses, creating new developments and driving up rents for industrial properties.
Under his new plan, more industrial development could be needed to house the production and manufacturing of everything from rockets to equipment that could make development compatible with outer space. After humans go into space, there still could be more room for the development here and on the moon, too.
Bezos at the presentation unveiled Blue Moon, a lander that could allow for the creation of necessary infrastructure to build out habitable space colonies in the future. The Blue Moon lander’s various versions would be designed to carry payloads between 8,000 and 14,000 pounds, can place rovers on the surface of the moon, carry astronauts and provide its own propellant for getting back to Earth, he said.
The reveal of Blue Moon came after roughly half an hour of Bezos discussing the benefits – and the necessity – of space exploration. Parts of the presentation echoed talks Bezos has given before, namely in 2016 at Code Conference, a technology conference hosted by online news platform Vox.
He repeatedly mentioned that Earth is the “best planet” in our solar system, but that eventually the resources on Earth would no longer be able to support life here, resulting in rationing of resources, thereby making future generations worse off than past ones for the first time in Earth’s history.
Therefore, Bezos said, humans need to find a way to live in space. Rather than living on another planet, he said, the best course of action is to create space colonies in huge pods as imagined by late Princeton physicist Gerard K. O’Neill.
“We get to have both,”Bezos said. “We get to preserve this unique gem of a planet, which is completely irreplaceable. There is no plan B. We have to save this planet. And we shouldn’t give up the future for our grandchildren’s grandchildren of dynamism and growth. We can have both.”
The idea runs counter to fellow billionaire Elon Musk’s vision of creating a colony on Mars. But other planets provide less space to live and lack atmospheres and gravity that humans are accustomed to on Earth, Bezos said.
The space colonies Bezos said he is envisioning are known as O’Neill Cylinders and were proposed by O’Neill in a 1976 book. They would be located close enough to Earth that inhabitants could still visit, would rotate to simulate gravity, and would be climate-controlled to match “Maui [Hawaii] on its best day,” according to Bezos’s presentation.
Various types of cylinders can be built, with some serving as commercial hubs while others, presumably those that aren’t also housing all of Earth’s pollutants, would be for recreation, containing replicated natural areas and even duplicates of cities on Earth. And they’d be close together – just a day trip away, Bezos said.
Creating those pods is a problem for another generation, Bezos said. Today, inventors, businesses and governments need to focus on putting in place the space infrastructure that will allow that creation to happen down the road.
After all, any land developer can tell you the importance of having systems and networks in place. Roads, utilities, power grids and cables that serve as the backbone for those services that the people living and working in a development will need, which makes them the backbone for the kind of innovation and creation that would be necessary to develop floating space colonies.
Bezos referenced the 1994 launch of Amazon, which began as an online bookseller. Without the established systems of the U.S. Postal Service, roads and internet-connected computers, starting Amazon would have taken decades longer and cost billions more dollars than it did, he said.
As for timing, Blue Origin could be in the sky within the next decade, according to the presentation.
Blue Origin is working on two other rockets, New Shepard and New Glenn, Bezos said, and the progress it has made on those ships has informed the development of Blue Moon. Because his company has been working on Blue Moon for three years already, he said, it would be available to help President Donald Trump’s goal to get astronauts back on the moon by 2024.