The solar system, the resource of the future (3/4): lunar exploration

(To Lucrezia Betti)

Men have always turned their eyes to the sky to understand what other environments are present in the Universe. It was 1609 when Galileo it began the era of the first scientific discoveries and with them a period of disenchantment: the Moon is not that far away and its surface is not very different from that of the Earth.

With the advancement of evolution, science and technology, the feeling that for centuries pushed men to dream among the stars has changed into greater awareness of concrete reality. In fact, it is after the Second World War that Space, and in particular the Moon, becomes the new battlefield of the superpowers of the century, whose objective is to exhibit their military capabilities outside Earth orbit.

However, in the absence of a race to the Moon, modern science probably wouldn't exist, and only with it did men begin to dream of new places, with different rules and laws than on Earth.

The second moon landing

Going to the Moon has never been an easy feat, however men have managed to reach space when no one knew how to survive in such hostile environments. To date, the Artemis program of NASA which predicts the return of man to the Moon in 2024.

At the beginning of 2019 many issues remained unresolved, such as the Moon landing, which allowed private individuals and large companies to be involved in collaborative terms with the presentation of their own proposals.

The mission takes its name from its sister mission, theApollo, which in 1972 brought the first civilian to the lunar soil (following photo), but this time it will be a woman who lands on the satellite. It is no coincidence, the objective is to demonstrate how the world has changed since the last mission: the program is technically flawless and is sustainable from an economic point of view with a strong international partnership and the insertion of private individuals.

Obviously, like every space mission, it will present ample investment margins, but everything is currently strictly necessary.

Permanent colonization

The mission considers very important elements for the current reality, such as avoiding reproducing the program Apollo, based on individual missions one shot.

The ability to carry out searches in a manner permanent bases will allow us to deepen our knowledge of lunar geology, and consequently of the history of the Earth, of the Solar System and how it has changed over time.

The new exploratory and technological research will allow the introduction of solutions also for the sector improvement of human life on earth. To understand its scope, it would be enough to focus on the technological development that allows the continuous metamorphosis of an entire civilization, including its applicability to all useful uses for man. An example of impact is Wi-Fi, guaranteeing social, economic and informational communication even for civil purposes1.

Not to mention the stimulus that the program Artemis gives both toterrestrial economy is lunar: in fact, many companies are involved in the project and, considering the high budget invested, the economic return for the companies supplying instruments and technologies to the program will be significant.

The goal is to create acislunar economy which will concern the future transport of materials in the Earth-Moon system which will allow, with its increase, the lowering of travel costs2.

All this will not only lead to new political-social scenarios ed economic-financial, but to new technological solutions that could prove fundamental for improving human living and health conditions, also in medical terms, for new waste recycling systems and for reducing the impact caused by climate change.

The ultimate goal will be to demonstrate how technological advancement allows long-term structures to be built on the lunar surface.

In this regard, we introduce the Lunar Gateway: the future station in cislunar orbit, born from the collaboration between the United States, Canada and Japan3, which will allow the Earth to communicate with it on the lunar orbit, which is fundamental from a strategic point of view and to lay the foundations for a journey to Mars.

Compared to previous missions there could be a single reusable module or, as it is defined, a space bus between the Gateway's orbit and the lunar surface. The stable presence around the Moon will help protect the Earth and the money invested in the project will allow the creation of new jobs in the space supply chain.

Envisaging a strong international partnership is necessary to ensure the sharing of costs and revenues, but also greater global stability and d 'diplomatic influence. Everything is sanctioned by the Artemis chords, signed for the first time on 13 October 2019 by eight countries, which will establish their respective contributions: Italy, USA, UK, UAE, Luxembourg, Japan, Canada and Australia. Furthermore, it should be underlined that the project is also characterized by an important private partnership: for Orion the first contractor is the Lockheed Martin Space Systems; for the SLS, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing e Northrop Grumman; Exploration Ground Systems with Jacobs; the Human Landing System involves NASA's collaboration with the three American New Space companies par excellence: Blue Origin, Dynetics e SpaceX4.

The predominant inclusion of private individuals has as its main objective the birth of a commercial program, in which different companies try to achieve the highest innovative contribution, but at the lowest cost5.

Moon Village project

Given the large number of actors involved in the program, it is inevitable that the most suitable approach to satellite colonization involves a specialization of activities, such as to allow a parallelism of functions.

Once we arrive on the Moon, it will be necessary to understand which structures need to be built and at the same time, the infrastructures for experimentation and transfer activities will have to be put into cislunar orbit. It will be essential to differentiate production and activities based on which actors will be designated to carry them out.

This system can be identified as the best approach to maximize benefits, reduce risks and achieve the goal of creating a real Lunar Economic Space. It is true that today, the world's aerospace agencies collaborate by sharing projects and results often intended for the entire international community, however, possessing strategies and objectives often different, a climate of competition persists, with increasingly ambitious project proposals.

On these bases the moon village, a lunar village proposed byESA MIT (MIT AeroAstro e WITH Media Lab) and the architecture studio SOM, author of the Burj Khalifa6.

Il moon village it is thought of as a global community environment with the aim of creating a space in Space that includes all the capabilities and interests of Nations. Furthermore, he intends to create one Space 4.0, which makes the Moon not only an environment for cooperation, but also for the commercialization of new and prosperous resources7. The Moon, in fact, has several mineral resources perfect for feeding Earth's needs. Among them, the Rare lands, such as Titanium, fundamental for terrestrial technological development; the ice, discovered in the polar regions would allow us to obtain oxygen and exploit hydrogen as fuel; finally, there is an abundance of 3Hey, a light isotope of helium, which could be used as a fuel8. Advances in space exploration could lead to control of potentially unlimited resources.

China is also carrying out an important exploration project and not long ago, the deputy head of the China Manned Space Agency he declared that the agency aims to land its taikonauts by 2030, just as Japan has expressed its intentions to build a lunar base with the help of robots.

The need to cooperate arises from the awareness of not being able to independently support the expenses for completing the mission and, at the same time, of having all the necessary technical equipment.

It is inevitable to take into consideration that behind the myth of exploration lies the figure of a new geopolitical competition for the new world order. It is important to evaluate how not only the technological, mission and collaboration perspectives change, but also the actors in play. In fact, private companies make it possible to resolve historical problems of state bodies which affect both financial elements and technological proposals, such as for the launcher sector. Likewise, it is possible to note that in addition to the great Western powers, new powers are entering the space and satellite context to strengthen their competitiveness in the sector.

As desirable as it may be, it seems utopian to imagine a world in which it is possible to reverse the direction of travel, yet it would be enough to think of the outbreak of the pandemic of Covid-19 which has proven to call upon all international communities for collaboration and the survival of the human species.

Today it is essential to build the dream of a world in which states can give life to cooperative dynamics of a political, social and economic nature that were previously unimaginable. On the other hand, the Moon is a world yet to be built.

Figure: The architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed a semi-lunar habitatgonfiable9.

Il moon village will be built by 2030 on the slopes of the Shackleton Crater, in the lunar South Pole, a strategic position for the continuous flow of solar radiation used to satisfy the structure's energy needs; furthermore, it allows constant observation of the Earth and access to the lunar water ice deposits present in the craters.

Il moon village is characterized by housing modules permanent equipped with docking, life support and environmental control systems10. At least for the moment they will be exclusively intended for actors carrying out scientific and commercial missions.

The role of the regolith, a lunar mineral that will be used to create a layer of protection for the inflatable modules from radiation and micro meteorites. The goal is to have the shells 3D printed on site, using industrial robots11.

The time limit of permanence is 300 days, due to the fact that the Moon, being further outside the Earth's magnetic shield, is subject to ionizing radiation coming from the Sun and deep space12.

The hope is to create a new space for the benefit of humanity and with respect for the individual Nations on Earth, working in a shared way for one higher purpose, without limits of accessibility, as has been demonstrated, with the exception of relations with China, with the ISS. There are many signs that suggest that the international cooperation is a necessary and essential term to allow an initial development of lunar activities, however, once they have started it cannot be excluded that the Moon becomes a Terra 2.0, with the reproduction of the same social, political and economic dynamics.

Human Settlement Orgware

At present, deep scientific research directly on the Moon would allow data and samples to be processed directly on the spot, guaranteeing a clear reduction in costs and deployment efforts. It is inevitable that, in anticipation of an exploitation of the lunar soil, theOST, emblem of the international legal framework of Space, within which it presents various provisions to define limits and possibilities that the new space is intent on defining.

The Treaty does not specifically address space mining activities, but it recognizes the freedom both to States and private individuals - subject to authorization from the State to which they belong - of exploration and use of space, but not its appropriation. Everything is planned in a single, strictly peaceful sense and with the aim of sharing the benefits with all of humanity. This last assumption suggests how the Treaty supports cooperation between states and, at the same time, shows that it recognizes the damage that current world powers could cause. From this it follows that sovereignty in Space is severely limited, but not completely absent13.

In the 1979, the Moon Agreement provides that the resources present on the Moon are to be considered the common heritage of humanity, therefore, not subject to claims of ownership. Article XI, paragraph V of the agreement provides that the States Parties undertake to establish an international regime to regulate the exploitation of resources natural features of the Moon. This means predicting the possible appropriation of lunar resources under a future international regime. This is why there is a need for each country to provide itself with one national law that allows resources to be rationally managed. In this way, private individuals would suffer important limitations14 and any disputes between states would be eliminated. However, if theEurope will continue to use traditional approaches and its geopolitical relevance will also suffer, ending up depending on the American superpower and the consensus of powerful entrepreneurs with significant financial capital, but little hesitation from an ethical point of view.

►Read the first part "The solar system, the resource of the future (1/4): science and technology in space exploration"

►Read the second part "The solar system, the resource of the future (2/4): the exploration of asteroids"

►Read the fourth part "The solar system, the resource of the future (4/4): ethical-psychological considerations on human space exploration"

[10] ANSA - Lander.
[11] A. Aresu and R. Mauro. Heaven's Gate: The Economics and Politics of the Great Space Race, 1950-2050. LUISS University Press, 2022.
[12] Argotec.

13 United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs - Outer Space Treaty. https://www.unoosa. org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/outerspacetreaty.html.

14 greement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, UNOOSA, 1979.

Photo: OpenAI/NASA/web