The Apollo program brought humans to the Moon. Since then, there have been many attempts and successful stories of lunar exploration from different countries around the world. The Great Lunar Expedition for Everyone (GLEE) project is bringing an opportunity for everyone to send their missions to the Moon. GLEE plans to deploy LunaSats on the lunar surface to conduct science missions. In a conversation with Mr. Tristan Schoeman, Project Manager of GLEE, we explore the possibilities of lunar exploration and discuss the social impact of such explorations.
Astropreneurs: Tell us something about the GLEE project.
Tristan: GLEE (The Great Lunar Expedition for Everyone) is a mission to inspire the next generation of explorers. Anyone from any part of the world can participate in this mission without any costs. They can develop their own science mission and write their own code; through the mission, they will be able to gather data and perform analysis with it. By doing that, we hope it inspires the next generation to pursue exciting things in the future. New possibilities and connections may open up to them.
Astropreneurs: What are ChipSats and LunaSats?
Tristan: The basis of GLEE is that we are sending 500 small spacecraft to the surface of the Moon and distributing them in a large area so they can take data simultaneously from different places. Effectively, we are going to do that by the use of small Printed Circuit Boards. ChipSats is heritage spacecraft that was developed at Cornell. For our mission, we are iterating on the ChipSats with the help of Mr. Hunter Adams, Dr. Mason Peck from Cornell University, and Dr. Zac Manchester from Harvard University, to make them more accessible and suitable for a lunar mission.
Astropreneurs: How are you planning to send the LunaSats to the surface of the Moon through the extreme environments of outer space?
Tristan: We are not going to send the LunaSats to outer space directly. Our plan is to put them on a lunar lander. Once on the Moon, the LunaSats will deploy from the lander onto the surface. There are many space agencies and commercial actors who are currently planning to send a lunar lander. For example, in the US, there is something called the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) where many companies are being funded to develop their own lunar lander.
Astropreneurs: Is GLEE providing any form of support to the participants in the form of hardware, funding, or testing facilities?
Tristan: The goal of the mission is to make it free for every team. We are going to send them the hardware, the actual LunaSats, and the sensors they need for free. They don’t have to pay any shipping costs. Teams may also apply for special requests for support in case they do not have basic hardware for the work.
We will be sending them all the materials, which will be qualified once they return back to us. In the case that the team doesn’t want to add any special sensor, they will receive a basic version of the LunaSats with a standard sensor suite from which they can develop their own mission.
Astropreneurs: What are the other opportunities for people who wish to collaborate or contribute with your team?
Tristan: People who wish to collaborate can be part of the teams who will be participating in the mission and thus they will be able to develop their own mission. The other main way people can collaborate and contribute to the mission is through developing technology demonstrations. This technology is still novel, especially when it comes to the lunar environment. Therefore, there are many opportunities from developing complex sensors on such a small scale that can be added to the LunaSat and tested on the lunar surface to compiling interesting, “low resolution” data to aid in scientific findings.
Astropreneurs: How do you foresee the program contributing to entrepreneurship in the field of space activities?
Tristan: There are a lot of applications for entrepreneurship and for anybody who is interested in space. The first thing we are hoping to do is inspire hundreds of thousands of people around the globe and start bridging gaps between groups of people or different countries. Secondly, GLEE can start partnerships, collaborations, or form businesses. The LunaSats themselves are an upcoming technology that have applications beyond Moon as well as right here on Earth. All of the ChipSat technology is open-source from Cornell University, and all the LunaSat technology will also be open-source when it is finalized by us, so there are plenty of opportunities for people to build off of this technology.
Posted by Ananyo Bhattacharya