Use the future to build the present
The Moon
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1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy
1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy

Sub-Field:

3.4.2The Moon

Human presence in space is currently limited to low-Earth orbit, but plans are afoot to send crews back to the Moon, perhaps as soon as within the next 5 years. The history of space travel has been one of national prestige projects, such as the US Apollo programme, or of international cooperation, such as with the International Space Station. That looks set to continue, albeit with a new and expanded set of players. China has agreed with Russia to investigate building a research station in lunar orbit or on the surface of the Moon. NASA, too, plans to put the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2024, however the latest report of the Office of the NASA Inspector-General (August 2021) indicate potential delays.22 Currently, the use of lunar resources towards a human presence on the Moon is a key driver for many resource extraction proposals.

The Moon contains resources like volatiles, minerals and rare metals that could potentially benefit Earth. A specific example is helium-3, a clean nuclear fusion fuel thought to occur in far greater abundance on the Moon than on Earth. However, for the time being, the feasibility of nuclear fusion power generation remains uncertain.23

There is evidence of water ice in the permanently shadowed craters on the Moon’s surface. Water supports life, in liquid form as well as owing to its oxygen content, and can also be turned into rocket fuel, in the form of hydrogen and oxygen gas. The cost of launch from Earth has driven innovation in wastewater management for the crews in the International Space Station. In the past couple of years, launch costs have been reduced by more than an order of magnitude. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 payload cost is less than $3,000 USD per kilogram.24 The value of extracting water on the Moon, whether for local lunar use or for refueling in cislunar space, will be determined in relation to such costs.

A new generation of lunar missions will generate much discussion about the lunar environment and how it should be preserved. For example, the radio silence on the far side of the Moon is valuable for astronomical observations, but could easily be disrupted by communications arising from a human presence. An example that calls for better transparency around issues of contamination is the first privately funded mission to the Moon in 2019, the Israeli Beresheet lunar lander, that crashed to the surface with a cargo including tardigrades, microscopic organisms that can survive extreme environments like space.

Private companies are also developing capabilities to take people to the Moon. NASA awarded a $2.9 billion USD contract to SpaceX for the human landing system for the Artemis program planned for 202425, not without objection from competitor Blue Origin. This raises important questions about how potential private visits to the lunar surface should be governed, whether they should be subject to any kinds of restrictions, and how these could be enforced.

Future Horizons:

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5-yearhorizon

Humans return to the Moon

NASA may achieve its stated goal of landing the first woman and the first person of colour on the moon.26 These become iconic and inspirational role models for the diverse future of space travel.

Increasing numbers of public and private organisations announce plans for crewed and uncrewed missions to the Moon.

Private crewed Moon flyby missions accelerate the formation of international forums in which clear legal frameworks for lunar tourism are discussed.

The Chinese Chang’e-7 south pole lander finds water ice, a significant potential resource for the lunar base it plans with Russia.

10-yearhorizon

The Moon economy

By 2030, the increase in Earth's population to 8.6 billion and increasing rates of urbanisation will have implications for the demand for resources27.

Environmental, social and governance factors28, along with depletion in terms of diminishing economic returns29, results in shortages in metal and mineral supplies, disrupting technology supply chains on Earth. There is a surge in private companies heading to the Moon to extract resources for terrestrial use.

25-yearhorizon

Reconsidering Moon mining

Multiple landings and launches from the lunar surface over the years create clouds of rocket exhaust and lunar dust that only slowly disperse30, raising the possibility of irreversible alteration of the Moon’s environment and tighter restrictions for lunar missions.31,32

The Moon - Anticipation Scores

How the experts see this field in terms of the expected time to maturity, transformational effect across science and industries, current state of awareness among stakeholders and its possible impact on people, society and the planet. See methodology for more information.

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