Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' plans to splurge some of his jaw-dropping wealth pushing his private spaceflight company Blue Origin towards the business of moon colonisation - think Elon Musk's dreams of a SpaceX-backed colony on Mars, but much less likely to get everyone involved killed - dropped last year.
But this weekend, Bezos dropped some more hints about those plans, including that he thinks it's possible to really get started within the next century. At the Space Development Conference in Los Angeles, Geekwire reported, Bezos believes humans will ultimately use the functionally unlimited expanse of space as as a giant solar powered manufacturing sector slash garbage dump:
"We will have to leave this planet," Bezos told me. "We're going to leave it, and it's going to make this planet better. We'll come and go, and the people who want to stay, will stay."
Earth will be zoned for residential and light industrial use, while heavy industry will be moved off the planet and powered by 24/7 solar power, he said.
"The Earth is not a very good place to do heavy industry. It's convenient for us right now," Bezos said. "But in the not-too-distant future — I'm talking decades, maybe 100 years — it will start to be easier to do a lot of the things that we currently do on Earth in space, because we'll have so much energy."
According to Geekwire, Bezos said that the lunar surface is "almost like somebody set this up for us," with polar deposits of water ice that could be mined for everything from oxygen to rocket fuel and possible rare resource deposits. He also added that Blue Origin's offer of a public-private partnership with NASA to build a lunar lander capable of carrying five tons of cargo in preparation for the arrival of humans remains open, but "We'll do that, even if NASA doesn't do it ... We could do it a lot faster if there were a partnership."
Also, Bezos apparently likes the European Space Agency's concept of a Moon Village where all lunar outposts are concentrated in a single region for potential resource-sharing the most. As Geekwire noted, Bezos views Blue Origin as primarily about lowering the cost of cargo delivery to space rather than actually getting too deeply involved in the construction of things like habitats, so this would all set up the company nicely to be a sort of Space Amazon for said Moon Village.
Competitors like SpaceX and Boeing seem to have an early advantage: As TechCrunch noted, Blue Origin is still only testing sub-orbital rockets. But Bezos told Geekwire he's liquidating $US1 billion of his Amazon stock a year to fund Blue Origin, and doesn't expect to run out of money anytime soon. In any case, these all seem like reasonable insights in how humans can achieve our deepest ambition as a species: An entire solar system filled with trillions of hastily discarded Amazon boxes.