Blue Moon? Clues about Blue Origin's announcement point to moon

Shackleton Crater; space mining: What we know ahead of Thursday's reveal

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

A rendering of Blue Origin's Blue Moon robotic lander. (Image: Blue Origin)

UPDATE: Jeff Bezos revealed a new lander called Blue Moon that he says can return humans to the moon by NASA's 2024 goal. Click here for all the details.

EARLIER REPORT:

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos and his space company, Blue Origin, are set to make an announcement Thursday afternoon but what the big news will be is being kept under wraps until the reveal.

However, following the breadcrumbs left by Blue Origin and NASA's recent plan to return to the moon by 2024 is leading some to believe the announcement is about a mission to the moon.

Here is what we know about the secretive announcement expected around 4 p.m. ET.

Clue No. 1: On April 26, Blue Origin tweeted 5.9.19. -- the date of the announcement --- with a photo of Arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance. There also happens to be an interesting, icy crater on the lunar surface called the Shackleton Crater named for the explorer.

It was an interesting photo choice for a teaser because the ship's mission to Antarctica was unsuccessful when it became stuck in ice and the crew had to abandon ship.

What do we know about Shackleton Crater? Observations by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) have indicated that the Shackleton Crater is likely 22 percent ice. The crater receives almost no direct sunlight and could possibly be used to mine organic compounds to turn into fuel.

"We’re all assuming the Shackleton reference is to Shackleton Crater, a source of lunar water and other volatiles, the ability to mine and make rocket fuel, and further lunar industry," UCF planetary scientists Phil Metzger tweeted Thursday from a lunar mining competition. "We are learning to mine the Moon, now!"

Space industry experts are expecting space mining of asteroids and the moon to help make deep-space exploration possible.

Clue No. 2: Late last year, Bezos revealed his space company is designing a large lunar lander called Blue Moon. The lander could launch on the company's New Glenn heavy lift rocket. The reusable rocket is slated to begin launching from Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral in 2021.

Blue Origin is also working with other space companies and government agencies to support the creation of The Moon Race, "a nonprofit working to launch a competition for teams looking for a ride to the lunar surface."

Clue No 3: Reuters' Joey Roulette is reporting the announcement will reveal a plan to establish a permanent moon base with the support of NASA.

Clue No. 4: NASA and President Donald Trump have made returning to the moon a priority. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced earlier this year the agency plans to return astronauts to the moon within five years, but this time, to stay. NASA plans to create a sustainable base on the lunar surface within a decade.

Is Blue Origin a part of NASA's plan? We'll soon find out.

Clue No. 4: Bezos has had space ambitions for a long time. When he graduated in 1982 as a valedictorian of Miami Palmetto High School, Bezos said he wanted to build space colonies with his final objective "to get all people off the Earth and see it turned into a huge national park," CNBC.com reports.

Check back after 4 p.m. for details on Blue Origin's announcement.

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