Saturday, May 4, 2019

Lunar spectacular

        This year so far, all of us who try to follow spaceflight and space technology have been mightily impressed by SpaceX's incredible feats of rocket retrieval, by China's demonstration of prowess (not only soft-landing on the far side of the Moon, but providing the lunar orbiting relay station that made it possible), and by a fairly spectacular woopsie from Israel.

        I try to keep up on the private enterprises that are now seriously in the space business, but every time I read another magazine article or blog post on the subject I get humiliated by how much has been going on that has totally passed me by.

        Never more so than when I opened the current issue of New Yorker to find the 8-page article by Rivka Galchen, The Eighth Continent (sub-title The new race for the moon, for science, profit, and pride). Galchen is a Canadian author and magazine contributor, who has previously written for New Yorker on the topics of Quantum computing, weather, and earthquakes.

        Ms. Galchen has been out and about in what Tom Wolfe called the low-rent facilities of the new space pioneers. Check out what she found:

* The telerobotics lab at the NASA-funded Network for Exploration and Space Science, which is developing 3-D printing technology using lunar regolith as the print medium. "You could print the wrench you need to fix something," says Jack Burns, NESS's director.

* Celestis, a funeral service company that already launches its clients' ashes into space and plans to send them to the Moon.

* Astrobotic, a Pittsburgh company developing a lunar soft-lander.

* The Mojave Air & Space Port, where many of those new pioneers have set up shop. Masten Space Systems is developing reusable rocketry there, with plans to go to the Moon in 2021. The company's pet rocket is the Xodiac—remember that funky name, it'll be in the news soon.

* Honeybee Robotics, in Pasadena, is developing standardized lunar rovers and has its eye on asteroid mining.

* Moon Express, another lunar exploration company hoping to deliver its first lunar soft-lander in 2020. It was that company's vice-president, Alain Berinstain, who first called the Moon "The Eighth Continent".

        Experience leads me to believe that not all these projects will come to fruition. Most will be delayed, some will fail altogether. But that article convinces me that private-enterprise Moon exploration and exploitation is just a few years away.

        For the next week or so, the whole article can be read online at this link.

        More humiliation came my way when I read Bob Zimmerman's blogpost today and learned that the Japanese company Interstallar Technologies has just completed the first successful sub-orbital flight of its MOMO rocket.


Chris Lopes said...

I've been following this stuff too and some of the ones you mentioned were new to me. We are certainly looking at a new space age with private suborbital, orbital, and even beyond orbital flights. Pretty much every country that can afford one has their own space program. It's become the international status symbol nuclear weapons used to be.

The sad part for me is how all this is passing guys like Hoagland and Bara (and their audiences) by. There is a whole world of exciting news that they are missing. While they are playing with pulp sci fi fantasy stuff, humanity is claiming the stars. Quite pathetic.

THE, DRH said...

The US is the only country with it's own Space Force, Chris. If you think that any small country is going to get away with camping on the Moon without a permit, guess again.

Anonymous said...

"The US is the only country with it's own Space Force, Chris."
Right now China has a presence on the Moon and the US has not. The US Space Force does not yet exist.
Also, remember "We came in peace for all mankind"?

Uncle Monk said...

China isn't on the Moon. It's all manufactured in a TV studio.

Chris said...

Here are some companies which my source tells me are going to be big names.

Dazzling Domes, a Nevada company which specialises in cleaning the large glass structures on the Moon. They evidently do a great job, making them pretty much invisible.

Ziggy Real Estate, entrepreneur friend of Elon Musk who deals in luxury apartments and land around the highly sought-after Daedalus S area.

Meals On Mars, a European company developing technology to grow and harvest crops on Mars. Mars being a perfect location due to its lovely Earth-like weather, sunny blue sky and lush wet topsoil.

Modern atomic science requires accurate sub-femtosecond measurements. Which is where Albuquerque company Accutroniks Atomiks is focusing its development. Using state-of-the-art refurbished wristwatches they have already got down to accuracies in excess of +/- 1.5 seconds per day, although this is often out of their control due to the alignment of distant planets.

You heard about them here first!

expat said...

LOL, well done Chris.