The purpose of the International Lunar Research Park is to explore and develop the potential of the Moon for the benefit of humanity.
The Moon is a rich and complex world that has yet to be explored in depth.
The false color images here from the Clementine and other missions shows a Moon that few have ever seen.
Looked at with the right eyes, the Moon is not a featureless gray landscape, but a world composed of a vibrant diversity of terrain, materials, and ecologies that still holds many surprises for future explorers, many discoveries for future scientists, and many opportunities for future entrepreneurs.
The International Lunar Research Park is designed to support all the endeavors that a new world inspires:
What's Different About This Approach?
The strategy proposed here is dependent on widespread and
direct participation of the public in the development of a lunar community.
Public participation is not only a
feature, but a critical element to the success of this endeavor.
Therefore, the major characteristics of the International Lunar Research Park are:The next human endeavor on the Moon should be designed from the beginning to be a permanent emplacement with all of the infrastructure constructed not only to meet the community's life support requirements, but also with enough excess capacity to enable a community to thrive and grow.
Inherent in the initial design should be the capability to expand, to add more people, for longer periods, in new buildings, with new capabilities.
These should be supported by new tools and equipment, provided by new organizations and groups. Those groups could include public, private, commercial, educational, philanthropic, and international entities.
The ILRP should serve multiple functions.
For all of these reasons, a Lunar University provides the intellectual home and organizing concept for the development of the first community of the Moon, while a Lunar Research Park provides the economic foundation for self-sufficiency and return on investment.
Together, these two elements provide sufficient purpose and breadth for flexibility and growth.
This is the Moon
Initial core capabilities will need to be sponsored by the government, but growth can occur and should be promoted along many fronts for multiple reasons.
As long as these are peaceful and legal, commercial, private, and international partnerships should be encouraged.
At the least, it is a safer strategy. If one supply ship is delayed, the next is not far behind.
The intent is to create a settlement that thrives, not just survives, and to extend Earth’s neighborhood to another world.
Doing so requires getting there and back often, enabling visits, tourism, eventually new students and faculty, and business trips.
There may be timelines, but they will need to be locally driven, rather than exhaustively pre-planned and monitored.
People will be living on the Moon for extended durations, and living in a community requires flexibility and control at the locality.
Clearly the first crew to the Lunar Research Park and University will not include students. But neither should the first team be made solely of astronauts.
From the beginning, this should be a multinational public-private partnership.
NASA clearly has an enabling role in the development of the ILRP. But, there also needs to be a transfer plan so that other investors and stakeholders can take over and NASA's presence and investment can phase out over the years to a steady state where most services are purchased from commercial vendors. With a segue plan, NASA can assure the continued return on its investment in the Moon and move deeper into the solar system, all the way to Mars.
This is the type of model that is being pioneered by the International Space Station and the ISS National Laboratory.