Space plants and K-pop on the Moon
This issue will be shorter than usual. On a personal note, I wrapped up my final week at ispace last week as I look toward a new opportunity back in the US.
I’ve been working for ispace for 4+ years and I’m deeply grateful for all of the incredible opportunities I had, as well as the amazing team of people there.
With the transition and an international move, I need to “slim” down this issue and the next few until I get back in rhythm.
That said… Happy birthday to Lunar Business Review! I’ve now been writing this newsletter for 1 year. Honestly, it’s been hard to keep at it, but I love doing it.
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And now onto this month’s issue…
Lunar Mission Timelines
In case you missed it, last month, I shared a table of the latest officially announced dates for the next 10 upcoming lunar missions. Go check it out here!
Since that posting, some timelines have already changed: NASA’s CAPSTONE launch has been delayed until June 6 at the earliest, with a launch window extending to June 22, and the space agency hopes to launch Artemis 1 by August with opportunities open through December. At the start of the year, there was hope for both missions to launch in March.
This month, India’s Minister of State for the Ministry of Science and Technology said Chandrayaan-3 will launch by the end of 2022. However, in April, the ISRO chairman said it is unlikely to launch this year.
Continuous delays… at least SpaceX’s President & COO Gwynne Shotwell remains optimistic that humans will be back on the Moon before the end of the decade.
Japanese Lunar Astronaut; SLIM is Completed; Manhole Cover Art
Speaking of putting humans on the Moon, this month, U.S. President Biden and Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida confirmed their commitment to bring a Japanese astronaut aboard the Gateway, a planned lunar orbital outpost, as well as a shared goal to bring a Japanese astronaut to the Moon’s surface as part of NASA’s Artemis Program, in the latter half of the 2020’s. Reuters noted, “Japan’s space ambitions, and investment, are welcome by the United States as it tries to stay ahead of China in a potential new space race.” The two countries are working to formalize the lunar astronaut arrangement this year.
On May 27, JAXA published an image of its completed SLIM lander, and announced, “The development of SLIM is finally over! This is a flight model (FM) installed on the vibration test table.” (translation)
In April, Bandai Namco, the owner of the Gundam franchise, unveiled a manhole cover with artwork representing JAXA’s SLIM lander mission to be placed in Sagamihara City, the location of a key JAXA campus.
Chinese Lunar Astronauts; Chang’e 7 to Nail the Landing
This month, Huang Zhen, the chief designer at China’s space agency (CNSA), told the state-owned CCTV news that the agency has established a Crewed Lunar Program Office to implement plans to put Chinese astronauts on the Moon. Several screenshots from the interview were published, one of which showed a mural painted on the wall of the office displaying several design concepts for future lunar vehicles and habitats.
It was also reported this month that China’s Chang’e-7 mission, expected to launch in 2024 or 2025, may attempt a precision landing in a solar illuminated area around a permanently shadowed region of the Moon, such as along the rim of the Shackleton or Shoemaker craters located near the lunar south pole.
Meet Danuri, K-Pop from the Moon
One lunar mission I have a feeling may launch on time is coming from South Korea’s space agency, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), which — since 2020 — has maintained a target launch date of August 1, 2022 for its Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO). This month, the new name for that spacecraft is “Danuri”, a portmanteau of the words “Moon” and “Enjoy” in Korean. (Correction June 1, 2022: The original post said it translates to “Enjoyed by All”)
KARI held a public contest earlier this year to choose the official name of the KPLO, followed by a joint review in May by experts such as namists, copywriters, and media, before landing on Danuri among over 60,000 submissions. The provider of the winning name will be awarded 3 million won (around $2,500 USD) and have the chance to view the launch.
During the mission, Danuri will test a wireless internet technology in lunar orbit. As part of the demonstration, it will stream the song “Dynamite” by BTS, the world-famous K-pop boy band.
This month, U.S. President Biden promised to expand space cooperation with South Korea during his visit to the country this month. In his election manifesto, South Korea’s newly-elected President Yoon Suk-yeol pledged to make South Korea “one of seven most advanced space powers in the world by 2035,” through efforts such as the facilitation of public-to-private transfer of space technologies and broadening the country’s role in NASA’s Artemis Program. In fact, Yoon’s handpicked foreign minister recently visited the U.S. to discuss this topic with relevant officials. (BTS also visited the U.S. to meet President Biden this month.)
As part of a NASA-funded research, researchers at the University of Florida successfully grew plants in real lunar soil for the first time in history.
Researchers planted seeds of an easy to grow plant related to mustard greens, among other plants, in lunar soil brought back to Earth from the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 lunar missions. The lunar soil was moistened daily with a nutrient solution and the plants all germinated within 48 to 60 hours. However, the plants did displays signs of stress. Compared to a control group, they grew slower, some were not as robust, and some had stunted leaves.1 2 3
New Lunar Spacesuits
Next month — tomorrow, June 1, to be exact — NASA will announce the companies selected to develop the next generation of spacesuits for Artemis lunar missions.
I previously wrote on this topic in my August 2021 issue, when I encouraged outdoor apparel companies, such as Columbia Sportswear, to get involved. To my delight, a few months later, Columbia Sportswear announced a partnership with lunar lander company Intuitive Machines to incorporate their reflective material into their lunar mission.
Apologies for the shorter than usual issue. I hope to get back into the swing of things after a few of months. I appreciate your understanding.
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Scientists successfully grow plants in soil from the moon; NPR, May 14 2022.
Scientists grow plants in soil from the moon for the first time in history; CBS News, May 12 2022.
Plants will grow in lunar regolith, but they don’t like it; Ars Technica, May 12 2022.