Since July 21, 1969 and the “big step for humanity” made by Neil Armstrong, mankind is dreaming of an exodus to his satellite. At least some of us, though. And for them, there’s still hope. That’s what a bunch of private companies have understood. If the Moon is not yet another land of welcome, it is nonetheless an Eldorado that we dream of visiting, inhabiting… or exploiting. As a result, various projects have emerged. Here are the five most promising.
Moon Express and the will to make the moon a “gas station”
According to the New Zealand Herald, Moon Express hopes to be the first private company to launch and land its small unmanned ship to the moon before the end of 2017. Competing with four other start-ups, ME is in pole position to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE award. In addition to the lucrative aspect of the reward ($20 million), such prowess could eventually allow regular flights to deliver scientific and exploration equipment to exploit the resources of the lunar soil and its commercial potential. And on the long-term, to “prospect and exploit the lunar riches, beginning with water. The moon will later become a kind of gas station for tomorrow’s space ships”, says Robert Richards, CEO and co-founder of Moon Express.
Obviously, Elon Musk is part of it
In 1972, the Apollo 17 astronauts made the last inhabited mission in the lunar orbit. Since then, nothing. A great deal for Elon Musk. He recently announced that in 2018, he plans to send two citizens around the moon aboard one of SpaceX’s spaceships. And for Space.com, this can work. According to the founder of the billionaire, the trip would last about a week. After taking off from Florida, one would have to travel between 500,000 and 650,000 kilometers in space to leave the Earth, pass by the moon without landing there and return to the blue planet. Here, however, the ultimate goal is not to exploit the satellite but to test the capabilities of SpaceX spacecraft for Mars colonization.
The surprise alliance between China and Russia
Until now, the conquest of the moon was mainly between China, Russia and the United States. Now, the two Asian countries want to accomplish the feat together. Announced on August 3 by TASS, this partnership is expected to be signed later this fall. And everyone would get what they want. According to Futura Sciences, although China has caught up with Russia, it still misses some technologies that could now be acquired cheaply. For its part, in turning to China, Russia is preparing for the end of the International Space Station (ISS) and its obligations to Western partners related to this program.
A telephone network on the Moon
Eliminated from the Google Lunar XPRIZE, the German start-up Part-Time Scientists did not abandon its plan to be the first private company to send reconnaissance vehicles to the Moon, regardless of Moon Express. According to Wired, their project is to install a telephone network on the satellite so they can send us the data collected in real-time. To carry out their business, the “PTScientists” teamed up with Vodafone. Together, they will equip a module called Alina with LTE mobile technology, which we use down to Earth with our smartphones. Much more efficient than radio transmission because it is less energy intensive, it would allow rovers –the vehicles sent on the moon-, to consume less to communicate with the Earth base and to focus more on their discoveries. Thus, scientists will be able to collect much more data on the spot.
Jeff Bezos wants to colonize the Moon
After conquering the world of e-commerce, Jeff Bezos now launches in pursuit of the moon. As the New York Post tells, the founder of Amazon wants to return to the Moon. But this time, to settle there and build a new civilization. Thanks to his company Blue Origin, a direct competitor to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, he told Geekwire that he wanted to build “a permanent refueling system to the satellite. To do this, we have the technology to transport large quantities of material to the satellite, which seems necessary if you want to install a human colony on site”. Bezos has already pitched his idea at NASA.