It takes a long time to get space missions off the ground and an even longer time for them to achieve their objectives. Many ideas never get realised but those that do have the potential to inspire, excite and deliver tangible benefits across industries back on earth.
A recent announcement has been made that Lunar Missions, Ltd. plans, within ten years, to land a spacecraft on the south pole of the moon and drill to a depth of between 20 – 100 metres (60 – 300 feet). This act alone will bring enormous scientific knowledge as the craft will analyse rocks as old as the earth and answer questions as to, how the moon was formed, why do moon quakes occur, does the moon have a hot core and so on.
Whilst the science is exciting, the mission also plans to leave a permanent human archive in the bore-hole drilled for the scientific study. The moon being the most inert and stable object in the solar system means that this archive could exist to the end of the solar system, some 5 billion years. The archive will include human DNA as well as a detailed digital record of Life on Earth.
What is unique about this project is that is it altruistic. There are no political agendas or corporate balance sheets to be addressed. This project is being crowd funded using the inspiration of the global population to get involved, help address the technical challenges and contribute to the archive. This is not a country or a corporation led mission – this is a project for everyone and a stated aim is to inspire the next generation of children to study science and engineering through a significant school’s outreach programme.
From an Oil & Gas industry perspective, the spin off technology is fascinating. If we, as humans, can remotely/ autonomously drill a borehole from 500 thousand miles away, then we surely can develop technology to drill remotely here on earth. And why is this important? Exploration in the Artic (potentially huge reserves of oil & gas) could benefit from autonomous drilling-rigs operating on the seafloor, under the ice. The cost of frontier exploration is often prohibitive so to explore potential basins, for example, North Falklands basin; and costs vs. risks must become more balanced. Would autonomous drilling rigs help make the exploration more viable in these frontier basins? And even in mature basins, such technology may help de-man platforms where Personnel on Board – Beds (PoB) are often the limiting factor in new wells being drilled.
Only time will tell if this model of scientific funding and public engagement will ultimately be successful but with the backing of some eminent scientists and commentators, the initial public launch appears to have captured the imagination of the public and this mission deserves all the support it can get to deliver significant benefits to humankind. Watch this exciting project develop and if you can, get involved. There are no barriers to your involvement.