Jeff Bezos Launching ESCAPADE to Mars, To Beat Elon Musk in Sending Something There

Not long ago, NASA awarded SpaceX perhaps the most important and high profile task that could be awarded to a space startup: the creation of a lander that could once again place humans on the Moon under the Artemis program.
First major Blue Origin New Glenn mission shooting for Mars in 2024 6 photos
Photo: NASA/Blue Origin/edited by autoevolution
Blue Origin New GlennESCAPADE missionBlue Origin New GlennBlue Origin New GlennBlue Origin New Glenn
Called Starship Human Landing System, the hardware developed by Elon Musk’s space company was not the only one competing for a shot at entering the history books. His rival in space exploration, Jeff Bezos, had his company, Blue Origin, devise such a piece of machinery as well. It was called Blue Moon, and it losing to the Starship caused Jeff Bezos to throw quite a tantrum back in 2021.

Since then, things have cooled down a bit, and the Blue Moon might just get another shot at landing astronauts on the Moon in later Artemis mission. And with SpaceX fresh out of conducting a major static fire test of all of Starship’s 33 Raptor engines (of which just 31 worked), Blue Origin got another piece of good news: it will beat its rival company to Mars by being first to launch something there.

NASA said this week it selected Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket to launch the ESCAPADE mission to Mars. In fact, a pair of identical spacecraft meant to study the Red Planet’s magnetosphere, the mission is set to take off sometime late next year from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. If memory serves me right, this would be the first takeoff of a Blue Origin rocket from a NASA facility.

Blue Origin New Glenn
Photo: Blue Origin
ESCAPADE is short for Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers. It will take about 11 months for the two ships to reach their destination and several more to get into position. Each of the two spacecraft is equipped with a magnetometer to get readings on the magnetic field, an electrostatic analyzer to get a sense of ions and electrons around Mars, and a Langmuir probe to detect plasma density and solar ultraviolet flux. And there are two of them because NASA plans to get all these readings from two different points of observation at the same time.

The goal of the ESACAPADE is to give us a better understanding of how space weather behaves, and that’s a crucial piece of intel in light of all the crewed missions currently being planned around the solar system. At a planetary level, hopes are we’ll get more info on Mars’ own magnetosphere, given how the neighboring planet is one of the prime targets of our space expansion efforts.

As for the New Glenn rocket, we’re talking about a reusable heavy-lift vehicle that’ll fly for the first time during the ESCAPADE mission. Blue Origin advertises it as the rocket with the most usable volume in its 7-meter (23 feet) fairing, two times more than competing systems, and capable of carrying 13 metric tons of cargo to transfer orbit. New Glenn was designed to be flown at least 25 times, but it all comes down to how successful that very first launch next year will be.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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