“People are going to want to live here,” he said.
And what happens to Earth in this Interstellar-esque future? The planet would be zoned for residential and light industrial use. The heavy, pollution-causing stuff would exist in one of those off-world habitats.
Bezos doesn’t plan to take care of this himself, though.
“Who is going to do this work? Not me,” Bezos said. He pointed to a group of middle-school-aged children near the front of the stage, all dressed in Blue Origin T-shirts. “You guys are going to do this, and your children are going to do this. This is going to take a long time.”
No pressure. In the meantime, Bezos said he would do what seems feasible in the present, such as reducing the cost of space launches by reusing parts of a rocket, something Blue Origin and Musk’s SpaceX already do. And starting with the Blue Moon lander, he would mine the natural resources on the moon.
Robotic missions to the moon have found evidence in the past decade that water exists on the moon, in the form of ice. Pence, along with the NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, have insisted that exploiting that precious resource would make long-term outposts on the moon possible. It’s far easier than bringing along giant watercoolers from Earth. Future lunar explorers, they say, could feed the water ice into life-support systems, or split it into hydrogen and oxygen and turn it into rocket fuel. “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.
The moon might seem like an easy destination—it’s right there, and astronauts have gone before—but success is far from guaranteed. Just last month, an Israeli lander tried and failed to land on the surface, splintering into pieces as it crashed.
Bezos is a natural fit for this kind of endeavor. Today, rich guys are doing the work historically done by governments and their vaunted space agencies. They’re launching satellites, space-station supplies, even a Tesla. Soon, if everything goes well, they’ll even be launching NASA astronauts. And Bezos is the richest of them all. With a net worth of $156 billion, he’s the wealthiest person on the planet, and—considering we haven’t found anyone else out there—possibly the universe.
Read: Los Angeles, America’s future spaceport
His immense wealth often prompts questions about how he chooses to spend it, and Bezos hinted at the criticism on Thursday. “There are immediate problems, things that we have to work on … I’m talking about poverty, hunger, homelessness, pollution, overfishing in the oceans,” he said. “But there are also long-range problems, and we need to work on those too.”
Blue Origin was founded before SpaceX, and before Virgin Galactic, another company run by a rich guy, Richard Branson, who wants to send paying customers to the space right above Earth. And yet Thursday’s event felt like something of a debut. The company went all out. The entire ballroom was awash in blue light. The walls were draped in black fabric dotted with LED lights that mimicked the cosmos as they twinkled. Tall blue fixtures that could best be described as oversize glow sticks surrounded the seating area. The playlist featured only space-themed songs, such as Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” and Styx’s “The Outpost.”