The Moon is open for business

Top travel destinations for 2023: Venice, Maui, Seoul, and… the Moon? 

Driving the news: Later this month, Japanese lunar exploration company ispace is set to become the first private company to successfully land on the lunar surface, per Nature

  • If its lander touches down safely, it will deliver rovers with the goal of proving ispace’s ability to harvest water from the Moon’s soil for future explorers.
  • A Canadian private space exploration company is playing a role, too. Bolton-based Canadensys provided ispace with the cameras that are on its lander.

Zoom out: ispace is one of many private companies looking to break ground on the Moon. Two others, Astrobotics and Intuitive Machines, are set to make lunar landings this year as part of NASA’s CLPS program, which helps private companies fund robotic lunar landers.

Why it matters: This rush of private companies to the moon marks the first rumblings of a full-fledged lunar economy, per Bloomberg. As NASA looks to create a sustained presence on the Moon with its Artemis missions, it will also seek the help of private companies. 

  • These companies will carry out a range of tasks like ferrying cargo and people to the Moon, building habitats where researchers can conduct experiments, and mining resources such as lunar ice—which could be used to make things like rocket fuel.  
  • NASA won’t be the only customer. Intuitive Machines says it will turn a profit in part by selling space on its landers to companies. One example is Columbia, which will test how well its Omni-Heat material can handle the Moon’s extreme temperatures.

Yes, but: Regular trips to and from the moon are decades away from becoming a routine thing—and that’s an optimistic estimate. Given both the budgetary and technical difficulties it takes to get there, the promise of a thriving lunar economy is far from a sure thing.—QH