Italy Takes First Steps Towards the Moon

Lunar multi-purpose module (Credit: Italian Space Agency)

The Italian Space Agency and Thales Alenia Space Italia are at work for the American lunar exploration program Artemis.

ROME (Italian Space Agency PR) — Italy is taking its first steps towards the Moon. The country system is preparing for the great leap on the surface of our natural satellite also thanks to the international relations between Italy and the United States and between the respective space agencies ASI and NASA, which have recently intensified on the basis of the mutual interest in collaborating on the program of Artemis exploration.

Within this strategic framework, a contract was born between the Italian Space Agency and Thales Alenia Space Italia, (JV between Thales 67% and Leonardo 33%) dedicated to the feasibility study and preliminary design (phases A / B) of a multi-purpose module linked to NASA’s Artemis mission which provides a human crew on the Moon.

The feasibility study has a duration of 10 months and must lead to the design of a multipurpose, flexible and evolvable pressurized structure, able to adapt to a wide range of applications. The first of these is the crew cabin of the NASA Human Landing System (HLS), which is also being designed by a team led by the US company Dynetics, for which Thales Alenia Space Italia is also involved. The cabin will house the astronauts on their descent to the moon and return them to lunar orbit once the mission is over. Other reference programs concern future habitats for the lunar surface, both permanent (shelter) and mobile (pressurized rover), as well as cargo for lunar logistics. 

The signature is a fundamental step with important characteristics for the impact of the Italian space sector through participation in the Artemis mission. Our country has two basic requirements that make it a trusted and privileged partner of the United States in the lunar program. The first key element is the very close collaboration of ASI and Italian industry with its counterparts from overseas in the field of human space flight, which has its roots in close industrial relations and production for over thirty years. The second distinctive element is the perfect combination present on the national territory of experience and ability in the design and construction of space habitats, recognized worldwide. 

In particular, Italy’s skills and production capacities allow it to aspire to develop an advanced housing solution, compatible with the lunar surface environment and able to serve both transfer modules (lander) and subsequent permanent habitats (shelters) that pressurized vehicles for long distances (pressurized rover). This is accompanied by the possibility of evaluating the transfer of some technological elements of a similar structure to logistics applications for deep space cargo. 

The participation of Italy in the subsequent phase of the return to the lunar surface of the Artemis program represents a great strategic value for our industry. After the low earth orbit and the lunar orbit now the world focus shifts to the development of the lunar surface modules, to start building the Moon Base. It is a new challenge and this national positioning on the development of elements suitable to welcome the man on the Moon opens the way to intergovernmental and commercial collaborations that will last for the next 30 years. The social and economic dimension of this investment, of extreme importance and significance, points to the growth of Italy and looks with hope to the future even in a difficult year like the one just ended.