The US government seems serious about developing the lunar economy

Zoom in / The permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles are an area of ​​interest for the resources they may harbor.

For the first time ever, the United States is getting serious about boosting the economy on the Moon.

NASA, of course, is in the midst of developing the Artemis program to return humans to the Moon. As part of this initiative, NASA seeks to boost the lunar economy Where the space agency is not the only customer.

Easier said than done. A whole set of conditions must be met for the lunar economy to flourish. There has to be something to sell, whether it is resources, a unique environment for scientific research, low-gravity manufacturing, tourism, or some other source of value. Reliable transportation must be available. There must be a range of services, such as power and communications for machines and people on the moon. So yeah, it's a lot.

In recent months, a US defense organization, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has stepped in to help. This is important because DARPA is a major supporter of emerging technologies and has a proven track record of success. (For example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) purchased the first launch on SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket.) Last year, the Defense Agency announced that it had begun a study, Luna-10To understand how best to facilitate the prosperity of the Lunar economy by 2035.

In December, DARPA announced it was working with 14 different companies under LunA-10, including major space companies like Northrop Grumman and SpaceX, as well as non-space companies like Nokia. These companies are evaluating how to create services such as energy and communications on the Moon, and are scheduled to submit a final report by June.

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But things move faster than that. The DARPA program manager overseeing these activities, Major Michael “Orbit” Nayak, published a paper earlier this month based on lessons learned from these studies that began just a few months ago.

“Based on the technical and development work conducted within the framework of the LunA-10 study, I have identified six hypotheses, according to which, if revolutionary improvements in technology can be made, I estimate that a direct acceleration in the lunar economic arena is likely to occur.” Nayak said in the newspaper.

Search for industrial innovation

Last Thursday, based on the ideas outlined in Nayak's paper, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) issued a “request for information” for technological capabilities that could increase lunar exploration and commerce. This federal petition It makes interesting reading and suggests that Nayak and DARPA have thought things through carefully.

Below is a brief summary of each of the six areas of interest:

Central heating and cooling: The lunar day-night cycle means that much of the moon's surface is in darkness for 14 days and in light for 14 days. This creates thermal challenges, as the surface becomes very cold at lunar night and somewhat warm during the lunar day. Just as an HVAC system provides heating and cooling services to various offices throughout a skyscraper, a thermal center on the moon could provide similar services to a variety of users so they don't have to bring their own. “In this new model, users would bring only minimal thermal equipment to the Moon, be connected to a thermal center, and pay for generated/rejected heat on a dollar-per-kilowatt basis — analogous to energy facilities on Earth and a key enabler of the lunar economy,” the paper said. .

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