By Candice Nunez, NSS ISDC Reporter, courtesy QGITS
Dave Dunlop is the presenting and managing Track Chair of the Lunar Sub-Track during the NASA Exploration session. Dave has been part of the International Committee of the National Space Society in partner with other organizations that share the same vision of a future in which the free enterprise human economy expands to include settlements on the Moon and elsewhere. QGITS (an online publication for STEM students) had the pleasure in speaking with Dave Dunlop about the panelists presenting on the Lunar Sub-Track.
QGITS: Last year’s lunar track was about lunar lava tube exploration on the Moon, will there be any talks about them again this year?
Dave Dunlop: This year we are having a number of presentations involving the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. We are getting updates about the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP) competition and their recent Milestone awards to several teams from Dr. Andrew Barton, Chief Technology Officer of the GLXP. He will be presenting at the Lunar Track, Friday May 16th, in the afternoon. Google Lunar XPRIZE teams that are also presenting at ISDC conference are: Moon Express, Penn State Lunar Lions, and Team Synergy Moon.
Although we devoted an entire day of our two day lunar track last year to lava tubes this year we have a more diverse range of topics and presentations. Last year we talked about lava tubes on the Moon but there are also a number pits on the Mars shield volcanos that would seem to be evidence of underlying lava tubes there as well. Astrobotic is another GLXP team that is planning a future lunar lava tube mission. This continues to be a hot topic for exploration. To get something into the lunar lava tube is something that has never been tried before – it’s quite challenging. I hope they can pull that off.
QGITS: What will you be speaking about at this year’s Lunar Sub-Track 2014?
Dave Dunlop: I am giving a talk on the International Lunar Geophysical Campaign. We are trying to do is to stimulate international interest in sending more small affordable science missions to the Moon. At present only three countries have managed to soft land on the Moon. If you look at a number of missions that are being planned over the next 10 years, there’s quite a few. What I have counted amount about 24 missions in development right now. Mostly those come from major spacefaring powers like China, India, Japan, Canada and Russia. If you look at these missions, there only 8 countries out of the major G-20 economies. Why aren’t there more lunar missions coming from G-20 countries? Our campaign is trying to encourage the number of these affordable Lunar CubeSat scale missions and more nations to be engaged.
We hope for example that some of the GLXP teams that have not had the ability to raise enough capital or adequate time to meet the GLXP deadline can repurpose their efforts and subsequently find both national as well as private sponsors for lunar science missions. NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual network has a number of international nodes and I understand that some additional nations are also joining that network. Perhaps there can be some collaborative project that these initiatives can mutually develop. We could see a new paradigm of small scale affordable science missions undertaken by more countries than ever before as a result.