Tech titans Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are in a battle for commercial dominance over the final frontier: the space around Earth’s moon.
Musk, Bezos and a slew of starts ups see lunar orbit as the future of business. Governments are getting back into orbit — NASA plans to return astronauts to the moon’s orbit in 2019 — spurring a tidal wave of investment to flow into commercial space ideas.
“The overlapping government and commercial ambitions point to a symbiosis that could usher in what Mr Bezos describes as a ‘golden age’ of innovation in space,” Richard Waters said in The Financial Times. “But they also hint at a budding competition that could make the next big leap in space exploration very different from the collaborative, government-led ventures that have characterised space development in the past.”
Musk’s company SpaceX plans to send a pair of humans to orbit the moon by 2018, while Bezos’ Blue Origin intends to deliver satellites, science experiments and eventually astronauts to the moon in the 2020s.
The two billionaires are both developing new rockets to go to the moon. The race has been marked by both billionaires aggressively tweeting at one another to explain why their rocket design are better.
Blue Origin unveiled animation of its new rocket design in March and Bezos is selling $1 billion in stock to further fund the company. Despite SpaceX’s more short-term timeline in the moon race, Blue Origin beat Musk’s company in the race to successfully land the first reusable rocket after officially going to space in November 2015.
“A growing number of space start-ups riding on Nasa coattails hope that the agency’s activities in ”cislunar’ space — the region between the Earth and the moon — will create the conditions for a sustainable commercial ecosystem of suppliers and other adventurers,” Waters said.
SpaceX is currently modifying its current Dragon capsules to carry astronauts into orbit. The capsule has already successfully flown uncrewed resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA. The company will send the first crewed trip to the ISS in mid-2018, according to Musk.
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