2022 feels a lot like 1969.
In many ways, the second half of the year for the space industry has been about the moon – NASA’s Artemis I mission finally got underway, a consortium of companies put the CAPSTONE satellite in lunar orbit, a surprise SPAC deal popped up for moon-focused venture Intuitive Machines, and Japanese company ispace is ready to launch its first cargo mission to surface.
Even one of the more difficult stories of this year – the bankruptcy of Masten – was largely about the moon. And that may yet have a promising future, with Pittsburgh-based lunar company Astrobotic acquiring the company’s assets.
With NASA’s Orion beaming back stunning images of our planet as it whipped by the moon, I spoke to Airbus Ventures partner Lewis Pinault. The VC arm of the European aerospace giant has taken stakes in a variety of space companies – one of which is ispace – and Pinault explained why organizations from companies to government agencies are eyeing the moon as “a potential resource for minerals, for energy.”
“In the 1970s it was acts of novel imagination, a dream that we wish for to come true, and now we’re living in a world where [a lunar economy] starts to look possible,” Pinault said.
The next couple years should see a variety of spacecraft and robots sent to the moon. While Pinault sees lunar tourists as a “potentially distracting” future part of the lunar economy, he believes the likes of NASA’s crewed Artemis missions would ideally establish a “kind of Antarctic-type explorers’ base, for researchers and engineers learning more about the moon.”
However the future shakes out, it’s clear a lunar economy is no longer fiction.