Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world and head of space company Blue Origin, has announced plans to participate in the new race to the Moon with a high-tech lander to carry vehicles and equipment.

"This is Blue Moon," the 55-year-old said at a presentation in Washington, as curtains lifted to show a model of a huge vessel.

The lander will weigh more than three metric tons when empty, 15 when fully fueled, and be capable of carrying 3.6 tons to the lunar surface - or 6.5 in a variant model.

It is supported by four legs, with an upper deck where equipment can be fixed. A large tank of liquefied hydrogen fuel occupies its centre.

"It's an incredible vehicle, and it will go to the Moon," the Amazon founder declared.

Mr Bezos didn't announce a specific date for the project's first launch, but Blue Origin later said it was capable of meeting President Donald Trump's announced goal of returning people to the Moon by 2024.

"We can help meet that timeline, but only because we started three years ago," he said. "It's time to go back to the Moon, this time to stay."

Fifty years after American astronauts first walked on the Moon, the United States is among countries showing renewed interest in a return.

The vehicle will be capable of carrying scientific instruments, four self-driving rovers and a future pressurised vehicle for humans.

The goal is to land on the Moon's south pole, where ice deposits were confirmed in 2018. Water can be exploited to produce hydrogen, which in turn could fuel future exploration of the solar system.