A Busy Moon! - ESA Chart Explained
Hi, today we're going to talk about the moon which I guess isn't any different from any other day. But this time, I learned something this week that was really exciting to me. I just wanted to share it with you.
This is always our destination. In order to get there, we always talk about Hardware, Business, Outreach, and Framework. Today, we really are talking about two things; Hardware and Framework. Hardware is probably my favorite topic of all the things that we do. It's the part about actually the physical assets that exist on the moon eventually. But the role of government really certainly plays a key foundational element to this effort. Both current programs and potential programs.
What did I learn this week? I read a news article about a Japanese company ispace going to the moon soon. I knew about them but I hadn't really thought about them in the larger context. I was racking my brain. Who else is going to the moon? I could think of ispace the one I mentioned. But there's also Intuitive Machines, Astrobotic Technology, and Masten. That's four missions and I posted about that a couple of days ago. Then, I started thinking about “Who really is going to the moon”? I didn't know the answers.
It turns out that the European Space Agency, they actually did this work about a year ago. This chart is about a year old but it's pretty accurate as far as I can tell. I’ve dug into some of the pieces that I had easy access to. But I can't verify everything on this document. It's a European Space Agency so credit where it's due. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt. What does this thing tell us? I started really digging into it.
The first thing that really popped out to me was just how many new entrants into the field there are. You know that the only people who have landed on the moon are Americans. The Soviet Union built a robot first to go to the moon and the Chinese have a robot up there currently. There’re only three nations that have successfully landed anything on the moon. India and Israel both attempted it last year but failed. They got really but they failed within a few hundred meters of the lunar surface. Pretty amazing job there but what really struck me with this diagram is just how many new entrants there were to the field. European Space Agency is certainly making a pretty strong effort. India, Israel, and the UK; lots of nations both individually and collectively are aiming for the moon. That's the first takeaway. There's a lot of people. A lot of different cultures going.
The second takeaway is something I already knew but I didn't have it in this kind of layout. What kind of missions is going? If the end goal is civilization, thriving, living, working, and playing on the lunar surface. Of course, we're going to have to have some human missions and there are three of those. They're going to of course be precursor missions that are robotic and exploratory.
No real surprises there but of course it makes me really happy that we're going to have human missions. That's a priority once again. The way that they broke this graphic out in the first place.
You've got institutional which in this case means National Space Agencies. They've got an entirely new section called commercial. Which honestly 10 years ago, this chart would have been entirely lopsided. They wouldn't have made this chart at all. There would have been no commercial elements at all to a chart like this. That even exists and takes up a pretty big chunk of this screen is a pretty big deal so institutional and commercial.
Who are the participants? Lots of them interspersed mostly on the institutional side but certainly, some on the commercial side which are really important. I’m particularly eager to see what happens with Japan here. This will be their first real effort so I’m excited to see what they're able to accomplish. China is always talked about as a threat as a near pair competitor to the United States. What are they up to? I certainly share some of those concerns although this chart actually made me feel quite a bit better than I had before. It’s kind of making me change my mind a little bit.
That three missions are certainly significant and hats off to the Chinese program for that. When our team went down to Colorado Springs about a year and a half ago, we met with Air Force Academy folks and Air Force base command folks. The rover had just landed just a few days before. That rover is still operational up there on the moon right now. It cycles off every lunar night. We're watching this very carefully and certainly, there were questions to us about what we thought about the Chinese program.
There's the Russian program. Now, I have a lot of confidence that if Russia is working with the European Space Agency that near-term mission is probably pretty likely. I have a lot of skepticism for the missions that are further down the curve because of the Russian economy and the price of oil these days. They keep pushing these other missions further and further back so I have a little bit of skepticism there.
You'll notice there are no commercial missions between this one and this one. They haven't really taken that turn yet and I think that's also an important distinction. What about this chart? The reason European Space Agency put this chart together in the first place is they have a pretty dedicated commitment to going back to the moon. The reason this chart exists and I’ll put in the links below is that this was a part of a larger study and they're doing a solicitation for commercial communications platforms for the moon. They want to highlight all the things that they're doing internally European
Remember this is the original chart and we broke it down commercial versus institutional. Let's talk about the commercial side for a minute. If you ignore this particular line, it looks like the institutional side is greater than the commercial side. But it's misleading. I don't understand why ESA would get this detail so wrong. But this line means something very different. It means there are a lot more missions. There is a lot more commercial mission. What would that look like if it was a completely visualized description of what's happening?
This is what it looks like. There’re some assumptions about this. The missions from SpaceX and Blue Origin are considered in the clips mission program each of those two years. There’re two flights per year for about seven years. All of a sudden this commercial side looks quite a bit busier. I want you to pay attention to this because it took a second to kind of sink in. Each of these missions, I described earlier Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines, and Masten. Each of these missions will have multiple commercial clients.
Let's make up some numbers. Maybe they each have five. Maybe they have 10. Maybe they have 25 that sounds unrealistic but let's focus on five or ten. If all of these missions have five or ten clients, suddenly you're talking about a hundred companies operating on the moon. Maybe 200 companies operating on the moon. Most of these are going to be really small sensors that are going to be communications arrays. There may be a few rovers out there during doing some survey work. But this kind of flood of activity on the commercial sector is really excited about but also changes the conversation if you look at the graphic this way versus that way. They tell a different story. What are we talking about? We're talking about five institutional missions led by NASA but we're also talking about 16 commercial missions and 21 missions to the moon by The United States. That's a different story than even I knew. I thought I was pretty aware of this stuff. When you look at all these circles, the moon is about to become a very busy place.
We're going back and America is going back to stay. I think that's a pretty interesting way of looking at this data. I’d love to hear your comments and feedback. If I’ve got something wrong please let me know. But this is my current interpretation. Thanks. Take care. Bye.