NASA’s new plans for exploring the moon’s surface have been met with a lot of international interest. Agency officials warn that there is so much interest from other space exploration agencies and private companies alike, it is crucial that the United States does not take its position as a leader for granted.
During talks at the Second International Space Exploration Forum, held in Tokyo, numerous countries and International Space Station partners alike expressed a keen interest in working with NASA to further their plans for lunar exploration. As a result of these talks, NASA agency officials said that America’s position as a world leader in the space exploration community became apparent. Officials stressed the importance of international cooperation while also maintaining an international presence as these plans approach reality.
There are a few different ways each country hopes to get involved with this program. The program itself focuses on the development of a cislunar facility, crewed by humans. This mission, as well as several others, should result in multiple human missions to the moon by the late 2020s. Japan’s space agency, as well as the European Space Agency, have both expressed interest in developing critical life support systems for their facility. Other agencies expressed a desire to assist with the development of a lander with lunar capabilities. At the moment, NASA has only been able to develop small-scale landers but hopes the new international interest in the project can lead to the rapid development of larger landers.
Landing on the moon proves to be a challenge. Numerous requirements need to be followed to develop a lander that is safe for humans. NASA officials mentioned that the Apollo Lunar Module used first to get humans on the moon does not meet current safety standards, meaning they need to develop an entirely new method.
The international community is also interested in working with NASA on deep space exploration technologies. Throughout the Forum, NASA and other agencies created a set of interoperability standards regarding communications, environmental control and life support systems, robotics, and thermal systems, among others. These proposed standards were discussed at length during the Forum and agreed upon by International Space Station partners.
This is another area in which the States can lead by example, showing other agencies and private companies how to safely launch exploration missions. When speaking with reporters, NASA leaders stressed the importance of including all space agencies in further space plans, especially those with smaller programs.