Lunar ISRU Workshop 2019
The 2019 Lunar In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) Workshop — Developing a New Space Economy Through Lunar Resources and Their Utilization: A Stepped Approach to Establishing Cislunar Commerce Through Science and Exploration — was held at USRA HQ in Columbia, Maryland, on July 15–17, 2019. An international group of approximately 200 people from Europe, Australia, Canada, Korea, and Japan participated in this workshop, and represented government, commercial, and academic institutions.
The workshop brought together several broad communities not accustomed to working together: policy, legislation, law, and regulation; marketing, valuation, and finance; mineral exploration (characterization); mining (extraction); mineral processing; and planetary science. Each community has its own levels of history and terminology. A common observation among the workshop attendees was that moving forward would be faster and more effective with better communication. In addition to speeding information dispersal, better communication would help replace unknowing repetitions of effort with more nuanced, broadly based cooperative work. To that end, a glossary or dictionary focused on Space Resources should be developed in 2020 and maintained indefinitely in an easy-to-find location.
The workshop was set up to investigate the five phases of resource utilization: identification, characterization, extraction, processing, and markets. The first morning was devoted to introducing the workshop and community updates from space agencies and commercial entities. During the workshop, the attendees were polled on 14 questions and statements using Mentimeter to get a sense of where the majority opinion was regarding lunar ISRU. These questions were distributed throughout the sessions to encourage audience participation.
The major findings from this workshop included:
- Architectures for human spaceflight should be designed to utilize local resources.
- The most critical immediate issue for lunar ISRU is to execute a resource prospecting campaign to understand if the resources are actually geological reserves.
- Terrestrial mining companies will engage in lunar ISRU if they can see a net benefit to their operations.
- In order to get terrestrial mining companies involved, a market potential needs to be evident for products derived from space resources. A commitment to human permanence on the Moon and Mars is enabling for the commercial aspects of lunar ISRU and creation of markets.
At the end of the workshop, the audience was asked to respond to the question “What are the three takeaway messages you have learned at this workshop?” using one- or two-word answers. Ground truth, prospecting, collaboration, propellant, and simulants were the most popular answers.
More information about the workshop, including links to the program and abstracts, is available at the meeting website: https://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/lunarisru2019/.