The plan of the world's richest man to transport humans from Earth to the moon and house them in space colonies around the galaxy may seem light years away – but for the first time people have been offered a glimpse of how Jeff Bezos sees our future.
The Amazon billionaire's plans to 'build a road to space for our children' were outlined in Washington DC last week as he outlined his vision for aerospace manufacturer and spaceflight services firm Blue Origin.
Bezos talked of giant orbital structures that will be able to house self-sustaining colonies and presented stunning artists' impressions of what life might be like living and working under the stars.
These picturesque landscapes detailing wildlife, waterfalls, mountains and new-age architecture have been produced using the research of physicist Gerard O'Neill.
'The idea (is) of manufactured worlds, rotates to create artificial gravity with centrifugal force. These are very large structures, miles on-end, and they hold a million people or more, each,' Bezos said in his speech.
'This is a very different kind of space colony. High speed transport, agricultural areas… cities in the background.
'Some of them would be more recreational – They don't have to have the same gravity. You could have a recreational one that keeps zero G's so you could go flying with your own wings. Some would be national parks.
'Some of these O'Neill colonies might choose to replicate Earth cities. They might pick historical cities and mimic them in some way… These are ideal climates, these are short sleeve environments – this is Maui on its best day, all year long, no rain, no storms, no earthquakes.'
If much of the speech from Bezos, the Amazon CEO and Blue Origin founder, sounded like far-out science fiction, that's because it is. For the time being.
But he did offer insight into Blue Origin's lunar lander plans, which could carry supplies to the moon in a few years and eventually put people back on its surface for the first time in nearly half a century. Its first mission is slated for 2024.
'Big things start small,' Bezos told the crowd of reporters and space industry folks.
'It's time to go back to the moon, this time to stay.'
In the mind of Bezos, developing a new lunar lander is the next piece of infrastructure needed to expand human presence in the cosmos. It could help open the door for 'thousands of entrepreneurs' to create new space businesses.
Blue Origin, NASA and space politics
Bezos has been funding Blue Origin out of his own pocket by selling about $1 billion worth of Amazon stock each year. And it could get new backing from NASA.
Only today, Donald Trump announced a new, $1.6 billion investment in NASA, with the dream of putting the first woman on our lunar neighbour
And Blue Origin's announcement comes just weeks after Vice President Mike Pence said that the United States would put boots back on the moon within five years 'by any means necessary.'
Pence's speech was met with suspicion about how such a mission could be funded or executed safely on such a short timeline. It's still not clear how those goals will be financed.
But Pence's declaration was music to the ears of private companies that are interested in deep-space travel and creating a vibrant space economy. There could be lucrative government contracts involved.
The world of spaceflight has increasingly shifted from the domain of governments to the private sector. The US military has been spending big bucks courting commercial space technologies. And NASA has turned to companies like SpaceX and Boeing to take over tasks at the International Space Station.
NASA said last month that it's looking to support 'rapid' development of technology that can put humans back on the lunar surface. And it made sense that Blue Origin showed up near Capitol Hill to refloat its moon ambitions.
Why does Bezos care about space?
Bezos has been busy reinventing retail with Amazon and amassing the world's largest fortune. But he says space is his passion, and he founded Blue Origin two decades ago to start developing the technologies that could support the long-term dream of colonizing the cosmos.
Blue Origin started with a suborbital space tourism vehicle, New Shepard, which could start flying customers this year. And it could launch a far larger and game-changing vehicle called New Glenn for the first time in 2021.
Bezos' competitor is fellow tech celebrity Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX in 2002. Musk's firm is far more developed, has already been launching satellites to orbit for years, and has long discussed plans to put humans on Mars for the first time in history.
Musk and Bezos have been in public spats about space in the past. And Musk answered Bezos' Blue Moon announcement with a lewd tweet mocking the lunar lander's name.
Billionaire antics aside — when it comes to the risk and expense of sending people to extraterrestrial lands, a key question is always, 'Why?'
Planetary researchers have long known that our moon and nearby planets would offer rough lives for humans. The air isn't breathable, and it would take a long time to develop technologies that could replicate the easy living we have here. Musk and Bezos each have their own reasons for wanting to go anyway.
Bezos reiterated his on Thursday.
'Earth is the best planet,' he said while briefly acknowledging more immediate issues like global warming, poverty and pollution.
But, Bezos said, if the Earth's population and energy consumption keeps expanding as it has, we will reach a point where every corner of the planet would need to be covered in solar panels to provide people with the quality of life the developed world has come to expect.
'We will run out of energy on Earth,' he said. 'This is just arithmetic, it's going to happen... If we move out into the universe, for all practical purposes, we have unlimited resources.'