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Jeff Bezos offers a sneak peek at Blue Origin’s newest rocket engine

Why it matters to you

With R&D work among the likes of Blue Origin and SpaceX continuing apace, the 21st-century space race continues to edge forward.

Jeff Bezos doesn’t want SpaceX grabbing the headlines all the time, especially considering all the dollars going into his Blue Origin space company.

Keen to let everyone know his space team also wants to go to the moon, as well as other places far beyond, Bezos this week tweeted a couple of photos of a gleaming new rocket engine.

The images show Blue Origin’s very first BE-4 booster, the rocket engine that it claims will end American dependence on Russian engines by 2019.

Two additional BE-4 engines are currently in production, Bezos added on Twitter.

Fully paid for by the private sector, seven of the BE-4 engines will be used to power the first stage of Blue Origin’s awesome New Glenn reusable rocket, which is currently under development.

The new rocket engine could one day play a part in taking astronauts on missions to the moon. Indeed, news surfaced just last week that Bezos is keen to launch “an Amazon-like shipment service” to the lunar surface.

No, such a service wouldn’t be viable today, as there’s no one there just now. But in the future, there could be a community of scientists stationed there for research purposes, or perhaps a small “tourist resort” for people who are cool with really long-haul travel.

“It is time for America to return to the moon — this time to stay,” Bezos wrote recently in an email to the Washington Post. “A permanently inhabited lunar settlement is a difficult and worthy objective. I sense a lot of people are excited about this.”

Bezos’s proposal, which was sent to NASA as well as top members of the United States government, focuses first on transporting cargo and other important gear for setting up a colony — possibly starting in the mid-2020s — with humans arriving on the planet some time (perhaps a long time) later.

More: As billionaires ogle Mars, the space race is back on

The Amazon founder and CEO said the ambitious project could only happen in partnership with NASA, adding, “Our liquid hydrogen expertise and experience with precision vertical landing offer the fastest path to a lunar lander mission. I’m excited about this and am ready to invest my own money alongside NASA to make it happen.”

Anyway, all that’s far in the future. First up are tests for the BE-4 rocket, and if they all go swimmingly, the booster should one day help to transport astronauts to the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit, or whatever inhabited satellite replaces it in the coming years.