Build infrastructure in cislunar space and on the Moon to open the space frontier…
To: Claude Juncker, President of European Commission
cc: Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner, Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs
cc: Krisjanis Karins, MEP
Dear President Juncker:
Thank you for your leadership so ably manifested in your State of the Union speech that articulated critically needed measures to preserve a united Europe grounded in European values.
What is missing from your speech is a bold vision of a unified Europe – both internally and externally.
In your speech you briefly mentioned space:
–-Follow-up to the Space Strategy for Europe: ensuring reliable, secured and cost-effective satellite communications services for E.U. business and national public authorities and infrastructures;
While Luxembourg aspires to be global leader in asteroid mining a pillar of the E.U. space strategy, it’s independent access to space, is under threat. Space-X and other competitors are driving for launch costs that significantly undercut Ariane 5 costs. The E.U. response, Ariane 6 has development costs that are an estimated ten times greater than Space-X.
Even more significantly, the EU lacks a bold, long term space vision. The Moon Village project proposed by Dietrich Woerner, ESA DG, has many of the elements of a true Moon shot project. Conceived as a successor to the International Space Station (ISS) that was created under U.S. leadership, Moon Village promises much more. Moon Village would be mankind’s first permanent presence beyond the Earth. Unlike ISS, which has only a select number of participants, Moon Village would be open to all that are willing to operate under its community rules. This would include governments as well as private business. China is excluded from ISS but would be welcomed in Moon Village.
Moon Village envisions operations in cislunar space as well as on the lunar surface. New technologies to mine the Moon and asteroids, to beam energy through space, to support life in low gravity, and much more is envisioned. Markets are anticipated for space resources starting with water that can be a source of fuel, a necessity for sustaining life, and excellent for radiation shielding in space. Advances in 3D printing and robotics point to the possibility of sustained decreasing costs for activities in space. Decreasing costs imply broadening opportunities for commercial business.
The E.U. can become the global leader in space development through its capacity to facilitate collaboration including any country, any research center and any business. Such a capacity to manage international collaboration is integral to the E.U.’s Horizon 2020 research funding program. The E.U.’s capacity to convene international parties is also present in the International Space Exploration Coordinating Group (ISECG) hosted by the E.U., which is the international body developing a global space exploration strategy. The E.U. has taken the lead on an International Code of Conduct for Space. ESA has numerous firsts in space exploration including extraordinary accomplishments like the Rosetta mission. The E.U. can become the first to lead lunar development.
ESA together with E.U. investment as well as independent activities of member states such as Germany, France, Italy and others is about $13 million, second in the world to NASA at over $19 million. China is, however, rapidly catching up. However, the E.U. and closely associated states like Norway and Switzerland have a combined GDP exceeding US GDP by nearly $3 billion. Clearly, if there were the political will, the EU could invest much more in the peaceful uses of outer space than it is doing. Moon Village will require substantially greater investment from the E.U. community (both private and public) than heretofore. However, Moon Village will open up possibilities for Europe that would otherwise remain unrealized.
Eastern Europe has considerable legacy space technology capabilities that are often underutilized. An expanded E.U. space program could revitalize these capabilities fueling economic development in regions where space had been a major strength, but where replacement activities have not fully emerged. Ukraine is particularly noteworthy with a robust launch industry and deep capabilities in several key areas of spaceflight. Increased investment in Ukraine’s space research and technology could be particularly fruitful in strengthening the economy and retaining vital technical skills within the E.U. community.
Despite its major space achievements, the E.U. lacks a bold space vision. There has been no E.U. Kennedy challenging the E.U. to reach for the Moon. Such a challenge may seem out of place when E.U. leaders are seeking solutions to the survival of the E.U. itself. However, astronauts are a point of pride to the E.U. as a whole as well as to the member states from which they come. Building facilities on the Moon and infrastructure in cislunar space will call on research capacities and skills from all member states. Taking the lead on lunar development will significantly also raise the international profile of the E.U.
The Moon Village initiative includes many of the key elements to a space vision for the European Union. By engaging China, Russia, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Turkey, South Africa, along with other states, particularly the U.S., Moon Village would contribute to broader global understanding and create opportunities for collaboration in other areas.
In 1957 the nations of the world joined in the International Geophysical Year (IGY). The Soviet Union launched Sputnik on October 4, 1957 marking the dawn of the space age. The EU could mark the dawn of a new space age by committing significant support to the Moon Village. A symbolic launch of the program could take place in 2017, the 60th anniversary of IGY.
Vidvuds Beldavs Founding member, International Lunar Decade Working Group