Jeff Bezos is the world's richest man with a bevy of business endeavors to run and a hand in pretty much everything. Most of his wealth comes from Amazon, the e-commerce behemoth that he founded decades ago and which has now gone on to control 13 percent of the global e-commerce market.
Amazon has so far continued to operate as a near monopoly, especially in the United States. The company accounted for almost a third of all e-commerce transactions in the country, and it saw tremendous growth last year as the coronavirus pandemic forced many to stay home and do their shopping online.
Bezos Leaves Despite Amazon's Rise
Over the past year, Amazon's share price has grown from a little over $1,500 to $3,000, doubling in 12 months and posting significant gains even to this point. Indeed, the company is on an impressive expansion drive that only a few others are experiencing.
Despite this, Bezos shocked the world when he announced last month that he would step down as the company's chief executive officer. Bezos confirmed that he would be looking to transition into other aspects of his portfolio in a memo to employees. The billionaire named The Washington Post, The Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, and, most importantly, Blue Origin.
While Andy Jassy, the chief executive of Amazon Web Services (AWS), will take over as Amazon's CEO, Bezos will remain chairman of the board. So, he will be able to maintain some control over activities and remain affiliated with the firm in general.
Hello, Blue Origin
By stepping down, Bezos gives himself enough time to handle several other important activities to him. Most critical will be Blue Origin - the space exploration and travel company he built in 2000. Blue Origin is a privately-funded company, and it is in line with names like Virgin Galactic and SpaceX as companies heralding the mission to bring man closer to space domination.
Although SpaceX continues to lead the way in terms of private space companies, Blue Origin has also made some waves for itself over the years. The Washington-based company has had several wins over the years, but it continues to lag behind SpaceX in the "space race." With Bezos devoting more time to the company, anything really can happen now.
NASA Lunar Gravity Project
Soon after Bezos's announcement hit the airwaves, Blue Origin announced a significant development. According to an official statement from NASA, Blue Origin will take charge of delivering moon gravity-style missions on space flights with greater proximity to Earth. The statement confirmed that as of 2022, the space company would simulate lunar gravity for larger payloads and longer durations than the currently available options.
NASA's statement went further, explaining that Blue Origin plans to modify its New Shepard spacecraft to function as a massive centrifuge in the Earth's orbit. This way, the spacecraft can provide a lunar-like push on experiments within it.
Lunar gravity is currently about a sixth of the Earth's gravitational pull. Conditions experienced with this gravity are just some of the situations that materials and machines will have to operate a while in space efficiently. Most experiments that require moon-like conditions will also most likely need a parabolic flight. However, current options only provide a few seconds of lunar gravity per time. Blue Origin plans to use its reaction control system to pride lunar gravity for at least two minutes at a go.
"NASA will soon have more options for testing those innovations in lunar gravity thanks to a collaboration with Blue Origin to bring new testing capabilities to the company's New Shepard reusable suborbital rocket system," the statement added.
By simulating lunar gravity on Blue Origin flights, NASA hopes to improve its preparedness for actual missions that would involve astronauts in the future. The Biden administration already showed a significant commitment towards space travel, providing an official commitment to the Artemis program earlier this year.
Kick-started by the Trump administration, the Artemis program aims to land more humans on the moon. In a press briefing from last month, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said:
"Through the Artemis program, the United States government will work with industry and international partners to send astronauts to the surface of the moon — another man and a woman to the moon."
So, it goes without saying that players like Blue Origin will be critical in the project's enforcement from now on.
Despite the new NASA contract, Blue Origin has also had some issues. The company recently announced that its New Glenn rocket would not launch until the fourth quarter of next year at the earliest. As the company said, it wouldn't take much blame for the delay. Instead, it laid the blame at the feet of one of its largest customers - the U.S. Defense Department.
The New Glenn rocket will be a revolutionary one. If successful, it will provide a new heavy-lift service to low Earth orbit, incorporate geostationary space, and much more. It will also most likely be a reusable rocket, firmly putting Blue Origin on equal footing with the likes of companies like SpaceX. Such a delay will set the company back, although Bezos' entrance into daily operations could force Blue Origin to sit up.
Along with the New Glenn project, Blue Origin is also focusing on several other endeavors. The company is working towards human suborbital flights on the New Shepard rocket as early as this year. It also leads the "National Team," which includes firms like Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, in the mission to build a lander for lunar missions. NASA is expected to pick a maximum of two companies next month, and Bezos will want to eke out a win in this regard.