“We are so thrilled and excited,” says Astrobotic CEO John Thornton. “It’s a story that’s 12 years in the making. We are thrilled to be leading America back to the Moon. Our lander will take 28 payloads up to the surface of the Moon, 14 NASA, and 14 non-NASA payloads. This is the beginning of a whole new era of routine regular access on the surface of the Moon.”
John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic, and Chad Anderson, CEO of space venture firm Space Angels, discussed NASA’s announcement on privatizing space exploration and development. Thornton also announced that Astrobotic will be sending 28 payloads to the surface of the Moon in an interview on Bloomberg Technology:
We Are Thrilled To Be Leading America Back To The Moon
Astrobotic CEO John Thornton
We are so thrilled and excited. It’s a story that’s 12 years in the making. We are thrilled to be leading America back to the Moon. Our lander will take 28 payloads up to the surface of the Moon, 14 NASA, and 14 non-NASA payloads. This is the beginning of a whole new era of routine regular access on the surface of the Moon. We want to make the Moon accessible to the world. What that means is taking payloads from all over the world from all different space agencies, corporations, and even universities.
Our first mission is a mix of rovers, science instruments, and experiments to go up to the surface of the Moon. Even the beginnings of infrastructure like a laser communications system that will dramatically increase the bandwidth possibilities in deep space. As well as the early beginnings of resource extraction from the surface of the Moon. If we can learn to live off the land of the Moon and actually produce rocket fuel, for example, as one of the first commodities in space. That could be transformative for our transport to and from the Moon and even probably one of the best ways to get to Mars. The Moon truly is the best pathway to reach our ultimate goal of Mars.
Robots Are Going To Be a Key Part In Concert With Humans
We’re primarily focused on robotic landers for the near future. We’ve got small landers and rovers that are going to be going up on the early missions. We actually have a lander that’s twice as big as our early mission. So we are scaling up in time. But the robotic side of flying to the Moon is going to consume us for quite some time. When the humans are ready to go we’re going to need robots to scout the area.
We’re going to need robots to collect and gather the resources and refine them. We’re going to need robots to build the settlement sites and clear the area for landers to land and make sure that they don’t interfere with the habitats. Robots are going to be a key part in concert with the humans when we’re exploring the Moon and eventually that same architecture for Mars.
The Moon Is Seen As a Staging Ground For Mars
Space Angels CEO Chad Anderson
I’m going to struggle to speak directly to that (Trump Tweet). Right before I was walking in here I was picking up that the White House put out a statement talking about how he was reaffirming their commitment in going to the Moon as a way to get to Mars. The Mars Moon debate has been raging amongst space circles for a long time. It goes back to the Obama NASA agency.
The Moon is seen as a staging ground to understand how to operate on Mars. When we go to Mars we’re going have to be there for two years. This is what was mentioned this morning in his remarks. He was talking about the importance of learning how to live off the land and be able to stay on Mars for a couple of years.
SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic Opened Up Space
That was the headline that I took away (from NASA’s announcement of private travel to the Space Station for a fee). Private astronauts. It’s very exciting. It’s really two parts. NASA is making the space station more accessible. You heard NASA CFO (Jeff DeWit) talking about research and manufacturing in space, they’re also making NASA astronaut time available. Controversially they’re also making some marketing opportunities available and private astronauts as well. That’s really supplying the market with more space stations. They’re also supporting the demand side as well by supporting these new commercial habitats that are in development. NASA is really giving them an idea as to how much demand they would want and how much time that they could book in being an important early tenant for those habitats.
They (SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic) play a very key role. They’re the ones that have really opened up space and the entire space economy for the new entrants that we’re seeing today. It is the lowering of cost and making their pricing transparent that has allowed for these new business plans to get funded and for these new innovative ideas to be realized. Just today, on the heels of this NASA announcement, Bigelow has announced that they’ve put down a substantial deposit for SpaceX launch vehicles to take those private astronauts to the space station. SpaceX will be taking these private astronauts. Boeing will as well. They will be taking a number of these commercial lunar payload services companies also.