I’m here at the NASA Lunar Science Forum today. Just heard an interesting talk from Frank Schewengerdt of the International Lunar Research Park. He presented a three phase, public-private partnership to develop a lunar settlement. The steps include:
- conducting terrestrial testing at a high-fidelity prototype on the Big Island of Hawaii;
- establishing a “lunar robotic village” that would use advance robotics and tele-operations to construct infrastructure and capabilities
- building out the International Lunar Research Park for human habitation.
Schewengerdt said the facility would be operated by an international consortia of governments, private companies, academic institutes and non-profit organizations. He compared it to the numerous research parks that have been established on Earth.
According to the organization’s website, the effort has been in the works since late last year. In late May, NASA Ames and the state of Hawaii signed a two-year agreement that covered a broad range of work on human and robotic exploration in space. A press release describes the extent of the joint research:
Under the agreement, the state is proposing to explore the development of a prototype International Lunar Research Park at the University of Hawaii on Hilo. It would use the state’s unique terrain, which is similar to that of the moon and Mars, to enable development and testing of advanced automated and tele-robotic vehicles.
Researchers would benefit from Hawaii’s natural geography, advanced communications, power generation and other technologies required for space exploration.
“This is the type of participatory exploration involving universities and small- to mid-sized high technology companies that is becoming an increasingly important component of the 21st century space program,” NASA Associate Deputy Administrator Rebecca Keiser said.
“Americans want to participate directly and personally in space activities. As we have seen from NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services project and the Centennial Challenges prize competitions, harvesting the country’s innovative talent is important to the success of our future endeavors in space. The space frontier is opening in novel and exciting ways.”
The state will provide the prototype test environment and infrastructure for the proposed analog test facilities. NASA will evaluate new concepts and models for conducting space exploration. The state will explore the potential to develop and mature innovative space-related technologies for educational, industry and government use.
“From NASA’s perspective, this partnership can inspire ideas and applications from analog test sites that can be generalized to space exploration and development of the moon and other planetary bodies,” Ames Director Pete Worden said.
The state’s Office of Aerospace Development will be the lead state agency for the project, enhancing dialogue and coordination among the state, private and academic partners to enable growth and diversification of the state’s aerospace economy.
“We support NASA’s goal to promote public-private partnerships and multinational alliances to help reduce the cost, enhance the feasibility and accelerate the implementation of future space missions – leading to settlements beyond low-Earth orbit,” said Jim Crisafulli, director of Hawaii’s Office of Aerospace Development. “Locally, this collaboration should catalyze Hawaii-based economic innovation and engage engineers, scientists, educators, and students, as well as commercial entrepreneurs, to increase the opportunities and benefits of space exploration.”