Since 1972, no man has set foot on the Moon. But within a few years, the lunar star might once again see astronauts pass by. The recent announcements of SpaceX and Jeff Bezos, the boss of Amazon have revived an old dream. Regarding SpaceX, the company of Elon Musk aims to take two “space tourists” to make a trip around the Moon as early as 2018. A project deemed technically feasible.
The second project, Jeff Bezos, was unveiled by the Washington Post last week.Through its company Blue Origin , Nasa proposes to develop a kind of cargo ship to carry material from the Earth and place it on the moon. A kind of space deliverer, with the stated ambition to create, eventually, a base implanted on the lunar ground with a human presence.
These ads do not happen by chance. During the election campaign in the United States, Donald Trump had shown some interest in a new US space program. The various announcements of companies are therefore a way of positioning themselves vis-a-vis the new administration … and to obtain funds.
“Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos expect to be paid for by public money,” says Francis Rocard, responsible for the programs of exploration of the solar system at Cnes . “Elon Musk has already recovered funds from NASA for the ISS ( the International Space Station ), which allows him to develop his other programs,” adds the specialist.
Towards a lunar village?
Bernard Foing, director of ESA’s European Space Agency, said the programs announced by the two entrepreneurs “are complementary and give a boost to all other programs. They can even be a stimulating complement or an alternative to government programs. ”
Thus, Jeff Bezos’s “cargo ship” program could be part of the “lunar village”, an international cooperation project led by ESA. The latter plans to install a “robotic village” on the moon, which would serve as a base for the rovers charged to explore the surface.
In 2013, the Chinese have also deposited theirs. The Google Lunar X Prize , which puts four trade missions in competition, should also allow more rovers to be deployed. The project of the boss of Amazon is not so incredible: “Alunir a freighter, it is to have a rocket that goes down, explains Bernard Foing: as the Moon does not have atmosphere, it is necessary to control the speed of descent . There is a very strong similarity to what SpaceX and Blue Origin have developed to recover their launchers. ”
The dream … and the reality
Once this robotic village is installed, ESA aims to set up a human base by 2030. This would allow, among other things, “to develop the science of the Moon, to use its hidden face unpolluted by waves To set up radio telescopes, or to learn how to survive off the Earth, “says Bernard Foing.
If the project can make you dream, there are still many obstacles to overcome. “SpaceX and BlueOrigin are carriers,” says Francis Rocard, “they are only interested in the rocket, but that’s only part of the problem.” For example, the presence of water on the moon is attested and could facilitate a human presence, but its extraction has never been attempted and could prove very complex. To unhook the moon, it will not be enough to have the head in the stars.