Canadian Ideas Wanted Now for the Beginning of Renewed Moon Exploration Era

This image, created from data from the Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector (LEND) instrument, shows locations where fewer neutrons have been detected at the lunar south pole. The presence of hydrogen in the lunar soil reduces the number of neutrons that flow out from the Moon. To map out likely deposits of water ice, LEND scientists look for places that have fewer neutrons. Locations that appear blue suggest higher concentrations of hydrogen, and possible water ice. Credit: NASA.

If you’re an individual or organization who has an idea for a mission, technology or instrument for the moon, now is the time to make it known. That in part, is the message the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is sending out in its latest call for ideas.

The Future Lunar Exploration Ideas call for ideas was released on Friday, May 17 in the afternoon just before the long weekend. Those with aspirations of getting to the moon might have changed their weekend plans to get started on this rare opportunity. And make no mistake about it, this is a rare opportunity.

Getting in on the ground floor of what is expected to be greatest exploration challenge humanity has ever undertaken, that of eventually building a permanent moon base, is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Certainly Canada and its partners have spent years getting to this point though their efforts in building the Global Exploration Roadmap. Many of the organizations and companies that want to participate are known. But not everyone with an idea has made themselves known. Not every idea has been put forward. And that’s what makes this opportunity so exciting.

ESA is working with the Canadian and Japanese space agencies to prepare the Heracles robotic mission to the Moon in the mid-to-late-2020s. Using the Gateway as a halfway point, a robotic rover will scout the terrain in preparation for the future arrival of astronauts, and deliver lunar samples to Earth
ESA is working with the Canadian and Japanese space agencies to prepare the Heracles robotic mission to the Moon in the mid-to-late-2020s. Using the Gateway as a halfway point, a robotic rover will scout the terrain in preparation for the future arrival of astronauts, and deliver lunar samples to Earth. Credit: European Space Agency (ESA).

The opportunity available here encompasses more than the NASA led Lunar Gateway effort, or its newly named parent program, Artemis. It’s part of the broader global effort to begin a new era of lunar exploration. This includes efforts like the Heracles mission, a European Space Agency, Japanese and Canadian robotic mission that includes a lander, rover and an ascent module to return samples to the Lunar Gateway for transport back to Earth for analysis.

The call for ideas encompasses the following broad areas; “Undertake new science projects or expand on existing science activities; propose new concepts or expand on existing concepts for science payloads or missions; develop, advance and then demonstrate technological solutions for space exploration; and/or provide services enabling the demonstration of science and technology activities (e.g. launch/land capabilities). ”

You will need to submit your ideas by June 28, 2019. The call for ideas is open to Canadian and international stakeholders. Importantly, anything you propose in this call for ideas must be completed within the next five, specifically, before the end of March 2024.

The CSA stated that the proposed lunar exploration activities would ideally contribute to:

  • Support Canadian Lunar exploration initiatives;
  • Leverage past, on-going and planned investments in technology development;
  • Support in-space demonstration of lunar related technologies;
  • Conduct world class science such as, but not limited to, the scientific priorities elaborated in consultation with the Canadian scientific community in the Canadian Space Exploration: Science & Space Health Priorities 2017 report;
  • Harnessing space to solve everyday challenges for Canadians such as improving remote medicine and health care, enhancing access to nutritious food and in other diverse areas;
  • Leverage partnerships;
  • Support the development of the commercial space industry in Canada;
  • Maximize benefits and facilitate early demonstration and delivery of space capabilities.

In submitting ideas to the CSA participants will need “clearly identify the following key elements”:

  • The specific scientific, technologic and/or commercial goal(s) the mission/contribution will address and how;
  • Description of the proposed science, technology, application or launch/delivery services to the Moon;
  • Mission and approach to get to the destination within the specified timeline;
  • Possible partnerships;
  • Science and Technology readiness level;
  • Impacts and benefits for Canada;
  • Cost and feasibility;
  • Opportunities and future development including a roadmap for subsequent contributions;
  • Requirements for pre-space or space demonstration of the technology/science payload (if applicable) – i.e. Platforms, trajectories, etc.

One of the elements participants will need to consider is how their mission or technology will get to the moon.  NASA designed a program for just such a purpose. The Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, which NASA will use for its Artemis program, is open to anyone. Of course, if a Canadian company stepped up with a credible plan to provide this service the CSA might be interested. Of the nine U.S. companies in the CLPS program, one, Moon Express, has opened an office in the Toronto area with the purposes of working with potential Canadian customers.

Insight into NASA’s Artemis program plans

Yesterday, a couple of days after the call for ideas was released, news leaked by Ars Technica of NASA’s notional plan for the Artemis program. The leaked information indicates NASA is considering 37 launches with the first asset of a moon base deployed by 2028. As well, the first human mission to the moon since 1972, a fly-by, called Artemis 2 (EM-2), would take place in 2022 followed by American astronauts landing on the moon in 2024 on the Artemis 3 (EM-3) mission.

Notably for Canada, the AI robotic system, Canadarm3, that Canada is planning to contribute, is scheduled to be deployed in 2027. As we reported last week, NASA does not need Canada’s Canadarm3 for the plan to land American astronauts on the moon by 2024.

NASA notional Artemis program plan
NASA notional Artemis program plan. Credit: Ars Technica/NASA.

About Marc Boucher

Marc Boucher
Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactice Inc. Boucher has 20 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 27 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.