America wants to get back to the Moon by 2024. The aim of the mission is to explore the 'Earth's natural satellite' and set up a lunar base. This ambitious programme goes by the name of Artemis. Luxembourg is one of the eight countries taking part in the mission.
America is turning its attention to the Moon again. America wants to land a team on the lunar surface by 2024 and set up a permanent base camp with a view to planning future missions to Mars. These space projects are part of a programme named Artemis. Luxembourg, one of the first countries to sign up to the Artemis Accords, is on board the mission.
A unique global coalition
Together with the six other countries - Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom - which have signed the Accords with the United States, Luxembourg will be contributing its knowledge in the field of space resources.
Since the launch of the SpaceResources.lu initiative in 2016, the Grand Duchy's strategy has always been to strengthen the space sector, with the aim of exploring the universe and using its resources. Given the many companies derived from the space industry that have been set up in the Grand Duchy, it's fair to say that the gamble has paid off.
To provide a better framework and strengthen the links between the various players, the SpaceResources initiative set up the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA) in 2018.
ESCRIC – the latest newcomer
The Luxembourg space family has just welcomed a major newcomer. Collaboration between the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA), the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) and the European Space Agency (ESA) has resulted in a new centre dedicated to research and development in connection with space resources.
The newcomer, which is the result of this three-cornered relationship, is named ESRIC, which stands for European Space Resources Innovation Centre. ESRIC is one of a kind in Europe; its aim is to become an internationally recognised pole of expertise in the scientific, technical, commercial and economic aspects of using space resources.
The new centre set up in the Grand Duchy will not focus exclusively on research and development in connection with space resources; it will also contribute to economic growth by supporting commercial initiatives and start-ups. It will also include a business incubator and facilitate the transfer of technologies among space industries and industries outside the sector.
ESRIC is an integral part of the Grand Duchy's space ecosystem; it is promoted and supported by the LSA, and managed and hosted by LIST. The ESA will be making installations available, implementing research activities within the ESRIC, and providing the business incubator with technical and commercial support.
The creation of the ESRIC platform is part of the SpaceResources.lu initiative launched in 2016 to establish an ecosystem conducive to developing activities in connection with exploring and using the universe's resources.
The Moon is not enough
This is just the start of the Grand Duchy's adventuring into space. Barely in existence, the Luxembourg Space Agency has just signed an agreement with its big brother in the United States, NASA. In all, eight space agencies worldwide are associates in the Artemis Accords for exploring the Moon and setting up a permanent station. NASA, at the head of this large-scale programme, is expecting to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024.
This means that for the first time since 1972 NASA is looking to put astronauts back on the surface of the Moon. But apart from landing on the Moon, the eight-part coalition also intends to prepare a historic mission to Mars from the lunar base.
According to NASA, the aim of this international cooperation, as well as supporting space exploration, is to strengthen peaceful relations among the nations. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine puts it like this : "With this signing (of the Artemis Accords, ed.), we are uniting with our partners to explore the Moon and are establishing vital principles that will create a safe, peaceful and prosperous future in space for all of humanity to enjoy."
3 questions for Marc Serres, Director of the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA)
1. Luxembourg has just entered into a strategic partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) in order to create the European Space Resources Innovation Centre (ESRIC). What does that mean for the Grand Duchy?
The creation of ESRIC is an important stage in implementing the SpaceResources.lu initiative launched by the Government in 2016. It is specifically directed at public-funded research in this field. The Centre is a vital part of implementing the national policy on exploring and using space resources. Apart from this national aspect, ESRIC also fills a gap at the European level, as there is no other centre of this type in Europe as yet. This means the partnership with the ESA also adds a European dimension to the initiative right from the outset. This is a field that will require much more research and innovation. Opening the Centre to collaboration at the level of Europe and beyond is essential if we are to advance knowledge in this field.
2. What are the main challenges facing the European Space Resources Innovation Centre (ESRIC), both now and in the future?
The use of space resources is a field in which there is still much to discover and invent. After the creation phase, the Centre will have to find its place firstly in Europe and subsequently on the global stage. The aim is to create a centre of excellence in the field of exploring and using space resources. Making itself known and subsequently recognised will certainly be one of the major challenges facing the Centre.
3. As part of the ESRIC project, Luxembourg signed a partnership with the ESA. In the Artemis project, Luxembourg is taking part in a NASA programme. Is there any possibility of projects with players such as India, Russia and China?
From the start of the SpaceResources.lu initiative, the Grand Duchy has sought to develop collaboration with other countries worldwide. Indeed a cooperation agreement was signed with China in 2018. There have been discussions with both India and Russia, but there are no results as yet. International cooperation, in the form of bilateral and multilateral relations, is going to be extremely important in the field of space resources. I am convinced that ESRIC will be a very useful tool in international cooperation in the coming years.