For this new article in Space Legal Issues, let’s take a look at the German New Space company PTScientists and the Mission to the Moon and Sanctuary projects.
PTScientists, Mission to the Moon and Sanctuary
PTScientists, which was originally founded back in late 2008 to compete in the Google Lunar XPRIZE, is a German New Space company whose aim is to bring down the cost of space exploration and democratise access to the Moon. The European private company is “committed to breaking down the barriers to research in space, by developing reliable and affordable systems to deliver experiments and payloads to their desired locations”. PTScientists, dedicated to democratising outer space, and inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers and explorers, is “committed to pushing the boundaries of exploration, promoting new talent in the space industry, and developing solutions that work for a range of customers – from space agencies and industry, through to academic institutions”.
The Google Lunar XPRIZE, sometimes referred to as Moon 2.0, was an inducement prize (a competition that awards a cash prize for the accomplishment of a feat, usually of engineering) space competition organized by the XPRIZE Foundation and sponsored by Google. XPRIZE is a non-profit organization that designs and manages public competitions intended to encourage technological development that could benefit humanity. The challenge called for privately funded teams to be the first to land a robotic spacecraft on the Moon, travel five hundred meters, and transmit back to Earth high-definition video and images.
PTScientists, which’s goal is to show that it is possible to build a sustainable business in space exploration, has developed a spacecraft capable of delivering two rovers, or up to one hundred kilograms of payload, to the lunar surface. It wishes to offer companies and academic institutions the opportunity to transport payload and experiments to the Moon at affordable prices. In their first mission, Mission to the Moon, the German private company will be sending two Audi lunar quattro rovers to the lunar surface and revisiting the landing site of NASA’s Apollo 17 mission (humans last set foot on the Moon back in 1972).
Working with car-manufacturer Audi, and mobile operator Vodafone, the privately-funded company has brought in expertise from different sectors to develop a ground-breaking scientific and technology demonstration mission, which will launch next year. As well as delivering cheaper and more regular opportunities for academics, industry and educational institutions to conduct lunar research, PTScientists, which’s industrial and academic partnerships help to drive the technological developments of Mission to the Moon, and include the development of new space-grade technologies for power utilisation, electronics, data-hosting and optical systems, is keen to develop the infrastructure required for future settlement on the Moon.
Mission to the Moon
On Mission to the Moon‘s website, the project is presented as “the first mission ever to revisit an original Apollo landing site”. “Space belongs to everyone, and with Mission to the Moon we are inviting the world to join us on this pioneering step towards accessible space exploration” says Robert Boehme, CEO and Founder of PTScientists.
Fifty years after the first humans stepped on the Moon, Berlin-based PTScientists, a group of New Space pioneers, will undertake a fully privately funded mission to land on the Moon: Mission to the Moon, which aims at creating an “Apollo moment” for a new generation, will be a robotic space exploration mission to return to the historic landing site of the Apollo 17 mission including the final footprints and the Moon buggy left behind on the lunar surface.
Broadcasting live throughout, the spacecraft ALINA, the Autonomous Landing and Navigation Module, will transport a pair of lunar rovers, developed by Audi, to explore the harsh lunar environment and capture the first High Definition images from NASA’s historic Apollo 17 landing site. Together, they will carefully approach and study NASA’s Apollo 17 lunar roving vehicle that was used by the last astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt to explore the Moon in December 1972. Vodafone’s network expertise will be used to set up the Moon’s first 4G LTE network and will enable the Audi lunar quattro rovers to communicate and transfer scientific data and HD video back to ALINA, which will then transmit it to Earth.
First space archaeological mission, Mission to the Moon will have onboard ten sapphire discs of the Sanctuary project, intended to leave on the lunar surface a testimony of what humanity was. On December 14, 1972, the commander of the American Apollo 17 mission, Gene Cernan, and his co-pilot, the geologist Harrison Schmitt, came back on board the lunar module to return to Earth, becoming the last two men to walk on the lunar ground. After three days exploring the Taurus-Littrow lunar valley, they left behind the rover that had allowed them to travel thirty-six kilometres on the surface of our satellite and a lot of instruments and other equipment no longer needed.
Forty-seven years later, and as the journey to the Moon is about to “democratize”, a Falcon 9 rocket, from the private company SpaceX, will take off in early 2020 from Cape Canaveral with under its nose cone the space probe from another private actor, created in 2009, the German PTScientists. Mission to the Moon, which will be the first European lunar mission (and the second private mission to land on our satellite), is the first space mission with an archaeological vocation. Plus, in a case attached to ALINA, at least ten sapphire discs (weighing just a little over seven hundred grams) nine centimetres in diameter (seven additional discs are still under discussion) will be deposited on the lunar surface.
The French Sanctuary mission has for goal to leave on the Moon an unalterable testimony, destined for our very distant descendants, of what humanity was at the beginning of the twenty-first century. A few years ago, Benoît Faiveley, the space enthusiast who imagined the Sanctuary project, read Murmurs of Earth, the 1978 book in which the American astronomer Carl Sagan told the genesis of the Voyager Golden Records, two discs embarked on board the two Voyager 1 and 2 probes launched in 1977. The project had thus began for Benoît.
Concluding remarks on PTScientists, Mission to the Moon and Sanctuary
Various meetings, which took place in Saclay in March 2018, allowed Benoît Faiveley and his team to finalise the content of their own records. Each disc will have on its surface more than three billion pixels, a size of 1.4 micron. The first four discs will be respectively dedicated to Outer Space, Matter, Water and Life, a nod to the Greek theory of the four elements. The next five discs will contain the full genome of a male and female randomly selected. As for the tenth disc, it will carry thousands of selfies and messages left by Earth people on the project’s website. “This is not to communicate with Extraterrestrials of the future! But to transcend the barriers of time”. That is what we can say about PTScientists, Mission to the Moon and Sanctuary.