Capitalism in space: The Blue Origin-led partnership, which calls itself “the National Team,” has delivered to the Johnson Space Center a full scale mock-up of the manned lunar lander it is building for NASA.
The full-sized, but low-fidelity, mockup includes both the descent element, developed by Blue Origin, and ascent element, built by Lockheed Martin, and stands more than 12 meters high.
The companies developed the mockup to allow NASA astronauts and engineers to study the layout of the vehicle, including positioning of various components, and get feedback while the lander is still in an early stage of development.
While providing this mock-up to NASA for design review makes sense, I must say that I yawned when I saw the string of overly excited new reports about it from almost every mainstream news outlet. It appears that though Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin have become very skilled at delivering nothing but mock-ups and promises over the past few years, both have also become very skilled at getting the press pumped up with each new mock-up and promise.
More and more does Bezos and Blue Origin remind me of Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic, making promises and holding spectacular fake press events, but actually achieving little. I could be wrong, but I can’t get that similarity out of my head. Blue Origin was founded in 2000, before SpaceX, and after more than twenty years it has yet to fly anything commercially. Work on its New Shepard reusable suborbital rocket has apparently stalled, without ever flying humans. Its main rocket engine, the BE-4, is taking years to develop, with only test versions built, none flightworthy. And New Glenn, its orbital rocket, remains a fantasy.
I truly hope my cynicism here is unfounded. I want Blue Origin to succeed. I just wish they’d finally do something.
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