Jeff Bezos unveils new plans for Blue Origin spaceflight

By Jackie Wattles, CNN Business

Updated 11:46 p.m. ET, May 9, 2019
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4:19 p.m. ET, May 9, 2019

Bezos says we use lots of energy. Here's where space comes in

CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos just walked on stage.

The event kicked off with footage of the Apollo moon landings. Now, he's talking about his passion for space and how the Apollo program inspired him growing up.

He's also discussing how going to space can solve some of Earth's problems — namely, energy. Bezos said humans' energy use is growing at such a rate that we're bound to run out.

It's not the first time he's talked about this issue. Experts say that resources found in space (that are very uncommon on Earth) could help us solve that problem.

4:08 p.m. ET, May 9, 2019

The doors are open

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

The doors are open and a crew of reporters are standing by for Bezos.

Not much is happening right now, but we've still got 20 minutes till liftoff.

GeekWire reporter Alan Boyle shared some of the event's guest list.

CNN Business also spotted Mike Gold, an executive at Maxar that chairs a regulatory and policy committee at NASA.

3:37 p.m. ET, May 9, 2019

Bezos dropped some hints about his super-secret announcement

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

We have no idea what Jeff Bezos will talk about.

Well, we have a clue.

Last week, Blue Origin sent a cryptic tweet with the date of today's event and a photo of "Endurance," the ill-fated ship that left explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew stranded during an expedition to Antarctica in 1915.

A crater on the moon's south pole is also named for Shackleton, a hint that Bezos will have a lunar focus.

Media invitations to the event said only that Bezos and Blue Origin will give an update on "progress and share our vision of going to space to benefit Earth."

Spokespeople for Blue Origin declined to share further details.

3:59 p.m. ET, May 9, 2019

There are so many billionaires in space

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson all started their own space businesses in the early 2000s.

All three billionaires are credited with helping to usher in a new era of spaceflight by pouring money into projects once considered too risky or expensive for the private sector.

Bezos has been relatively low-key about his space endeavors which makes sense, since he's been busy reinventing retail.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk's rocket company SpaceX has been at the center of most of the media attention. It has developed cheap, reusable rockets that now regularly haul satellites to orbit. The company also wins high-profile contracts with NASA and the military, and it's touted bold plans for colonizing Mars.

Richard Branson

The British serial entrepreneur has also wielded his signature showmanship to promote Virgin Galactic, a space tourism venture that hundreds of customers have already lined up for. It could open for business this year.

Bezos' enormous e-commerce fortune could give Blue Origin a leg up in the billionaire space race. Bezos has said he fills Blue Origin's coffers by selling about $1 billion worth of his Amazon (AMZN) stock each year. That means the company hasn't had to worry about courting investors, which gives it a certain amount of freedom compared to its competitors.

3:30 p.m. ET, May 9, 2019

Reuters: Bezos is after big-time NASA contracts

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

Jeff Bezos is expected to lay out plans to help build a base on the moon, according to a new report from Reuters.

If that's the case, Blue is likely putting on a big event to get NASA's attention.

The space agency has had its eye on the moon: It's looking to develop a lunar gateway to aide deep space travel; earlier this year the Trump administration made the bold pledge to send astronauts back to the lunar surface in five years.

NASA also said last month that it's looking for companies to send in proposals for an "integrated human lunar landing system." The agency said it wanted to support the "rapid development" the technology.

That might also explain why Blue is holding its big announcement in D.C., which is home to the movers and shakers that help fund NASA.

3:32 p.m. ET, May 9, 2019

Bezos is clearly gunning for Space X

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

Blue Origin hopes to start flying its massive rocket New Glenn in 2021. It's capable of reaching orbit, which requires speeds topping 33 times the speed of sound and can be used to fire huge satellites into space.

That means it should be able to compete with Elon Musk's SpaceX, which has been launching satellites for years already.

3:00 p.m. ET, May 9, 2019

Jeff Bezos is betting big on space tourism

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

Blue Origin has built a reusable capsule and rocket system called New Shepard. It's designed to send tourists on short, scenic trips to the thermosphere.

Blue has flown the vehicle about a dozen times — but never with people on board.

But New Shepard's first crewed launch could be just a few months away, an executive said during a test launch webcast last week.