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Can we conquer the moon? The next frontier of lunar missions

July 20, 1969 became a special day in human history – Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin accomplished a remarkable feat, becoming the first humans to set foot on the moon. The Apollo 11 mission was the culmination of years of scientific innovation, determination and teamwork that led to this historic moment. Both the astronaut’s personal achievement and the monumental significance of the event for all mankind were reflected in the way Armstrong phrased his famous words: it’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

The moon landing was the fulfillment of a dream that had filled the human imagination for centuries. The Apollo 11 mission was not only a symbolic victory, but also a testament to the potential and capabilities of the human mind. It also had long-term consequences for lunar research – the moon landing became a pretext for further experiments and discoveries. But the Apollo 11 mission became more than just a single event. Years later, it takes only a few days to send most spacecraft to the Moon, so it’s no surprise that people have sent more missions there than anywhere else. [1] 

The Moon is the only celestial body other than Earth that humans have visited

The exploration of the Moon has witnessed the achievements of various nations, each of which has left its unique mark on the celestial canvas. The United States is a pioneer in this regard with 32 missions to its credit. The Soviet Union, driven by determination, has completed 23 missions, including the landmark Luna 2 in 1959. China conducted 7 missions, culminating in the historic soft landing of Chang’e 4 on the far side of the Moon in 2019. Japan participated in two missions, such as the comprehensive exploration of the moon SELENE in 2007. A private company from Luxembourg ventured on the innovative Manfred Memorial Moon Mission in 2014. The European Union’s SMART-1 tested cutting-edge technologies before a controlled descent from the moon in 2006. India’s Chandrayaan-1 revealed lunar secrets in 2008, while Italy’s ArgoMoon demonstrated the potential of CubeSat in 2022. Israel’s Beresheet lander took images of the dark side of the Moon in 2019, and South Korea’s KPLO surveyed lunar resources three years later that year. [2] Even in the face of challenges, the United Arab Emirates sought to reach the moon in 2023, leaving an indelible mark on humanity’s lunar exploration odyssey. [2]

Poland’s case

Poland has a rich astronomical heritage that dates back to Nicolaus Copernicus and his heliocentric model of the universe. Since then, Poland has been involved in space research and the development of space technology. The establishment of the Polish Space Agency (POLSA) in 2014 further strengthened this involvement. Scientists take part in international missions related to exoplanet exploration, cosmic radiation and gravitational waves. Poland also has education and outreach initiatives to inspire the next generation of scientists and space enthusiasts.

Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer

On April 13, 2023, a momentous event took place – the European Space Agency’s (ESA) flagship mission, the JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer), launched from a spaceport in French Guiana. What makes this endeavor even more remarkable is the important role that Polish entities played in its implementation, highlighting Poland’s growing presence in the sphere of space exploration. The main goal of the mission is to discover whether conditions on the ice satellites are conducive to the emergence and maintenance of life. The joint nature of the JUICE project underscores the international cooperation that characterizes modern space exploration. Teams from 16 European countries, along with key players such as NASA (USA), JAXA (Japan) and ISA (Israel), have combined their expertise to lead this mission to success. The Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences played a leading role in the JUICE mission. Its scientific teams played a key role in establishing the mission’s core, contributing to the design and production of instrument prototypes and flight models. Astronika Sp. z o.o., another Polish participant in the project, confirmed its involvement in building research instruments for the mission. Sener Polska Sp. z o.o. is another Polish entity, and has contributed to the mission’s energy supply – the solar panels that power the probe. Their involvement underscores Poland’s multifaceted contribution to space missions, demonstrating the country’s capabilities in various fields. [4]

ARIEL

Recent updates have revealed that the ARIEL space telescope has successfully passed the initial design evaluation, marking a key milestone in its journey. The main goal of the mission, scheduled for 2029, is to study the chemical composition of distant exoplanets. Noteworthy is the key contribution of the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences, responsible for the telescope’s key instrument. The European Space Agency (ESA) has confirmed the completion of the Preliminary Review of Project ARIEL, moving the mission to the next stage – the Critical Design Review. ARIEL’s projected operational location is 1.5 million kilometers beyond Earth’s orbit, around Lagrange point 2. Expected results include invaluable insights into the complex genesis and evolution of planetary systems. Over four years, ARIEL’s meticulous observations will cover 1,000 exoplanets orbiting distant stars – using visible and infrared spectra, the study aims to decipher the unfolding narrative of their formation and development. The Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are working together to develop the Precision Guidance System (FGS). This key apparatus is integral to ensuring precise accuracy in orienting the direction of observed objects. [5]

Mission: 2023

While last year witnessed the spectacular inauguration of the James Webb Space Telescope, an ultra-sensitive observer of the cosmos, and the inaugural voyage of Artemis, NASA’s campaign to direct humanity into deep space, including Mars, it also witnessed the unprecedented manipulation of an asteroid by the US space agency. 

The comprehensive array of upcoming projects includes transporting essential supplies and experiments to the lunar surface, laying the groundwork for the planned arrival of astronauts in 2025, thereby finalizing the establishment of a sustainable lunar economy. The impetus for such progress stems in large part from NASA’s visionary Commercial Lunar Payload Services program – launched in 2018 to enlist the cooperation of the private sector in the venture of transporting payloads to the Moon. 

  • NASA’s partnership with Intuitive Machines 
  • Astrobotic, a commercial partner, to launch the Peregrine-1 mission, a mission to be launched via a United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral
  • The debut of SpaceX’s colossal Starship spacecraft
  • Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) mission 
  • Chandrayaan-3 mission
  • Luna 25
  • Unprecedented exploration of an asteroid composed mainly of metals such as iron and nickel – 16 Psyche
  • Bepi-Colombo
  • Parker Solar Probe
  • NASA OSIRIS-Rex

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the General Support Technology Programme coming soon

ESA and the Polish Space Agency are co-hosting a “GSTP 30 Years Anniversary” event to mark the 30th anniversary of ESA’s General Support Technology Programme (GSTP). The event will take place on September 26-27 at the Sheraton Sopot Hotel conference center in the Tri-City. It will include presentations, discussions and an exhibition highlighting GSTP achievements and future developments in the space industry. The four main themes of the conference are robotics, energy, space security and materials/constructions.

Since its launch in 1993, the GSTP program has involved more than 2,000 players in the European space industry. The importance of the GSTP program is evident in its budget allocation for 2023 of about 167 million euros. Focusing on Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) from 3 to 7, the program develops technologies, fosters innovation, increases industry competitiveness and enhances technological independence. The program’s three components – development, production and flight – support technology creation, development and demonstration through missions such as Proba 1, Sloshsat, Proba V and upcoming missions such as GOMX-5, PROBA 3, Pretty and M-ARGO. [6]


The text presented here is of a popular science nature, presenting Poland’s involvement in space exploration and its growing contribution to space exploration in the context of major breakthroughs made by countries charting new frontiers of human space exploration. It discusses the exploration initiatives of various countries, including Poland, in the context of space exploration with particular emphasis on the Moon. The author emphasizes missions such as JUICE and ARIEL, in which Poland plays an important role, both in terms of intellectual and technical background. Also emphasized is Poland’s international cooperation in the development of other space projects, and the fact that Poland’s contribution to space exploration can be a source of inspiration for young scientists and an aspiration to promote science among young people.Despite the value it carries in the context of the developing discourse on space exploration, the text avoids a critical assessment of the challenges and limitations that may exist in the process of developing space exploration in Poland. Moreover, it fails to mention the need to develop a space industry (independent of transnational scientific cooperation) leading to an intensification of Poland’s involvement in commercial New Space.

– Mateusz Mościcki, a graduate of the Tsinghua-MIT Global MBA program.

Bibliography:

[1] Every Mission to the Moon, Ever, The Planetary Society https://www.planetary.org/space-missions/every-moon-mission

[2] How many countries have been to the moon?, StarLust, 23.08.2023 https://starlust.org/countries-that-have-been-to-the-moon/ 

[3] Why 2023 should be dubbed ‘Year of the Lunar Landers’, Mashable, 4.01.2023

https://mashable.com/article/2023-space-launch-calendar

[4] Start misji JUICE, Ministerstwo Edukacji i Nauki, https://www.gov.pl/web/edukacja-i-nauka/start-misji-juice

[5] Polski udział w misji ARIEL. Celem badanie egzoplanet, Space24, 8.08.2023 https://space24.pl/pojazdy-kosmiczne/sondy/polski-udzial-w-misji-ariel-celem-badanie-egzoplanet[6] 30 lat ważnego programu ESA zostanie podsumowane w Polsce, POLSA, 22.08.2023 https://polsa.gov.pl/wydarzenia/30-lat-gstp/

Zuzanna Czernicka
Bio:
I am deeply immersed in the dynamic world of banking and FinTech. My focus encompasses critical areas such as foreign exchange, payments, and the cutting-edge landscape of FinTech regulation. My academic interests span a broad range of topics including electronic payments, Open Banking, blockchain impacts, the DeFi ecosystem, NFTs, ICOs, and tokenization. I am dedicated to understanding and analyzing the new regulatory frameworks shaping the FinTech world. Currently, I am writing my Bachelor's thesis on the robo-advisory services. This work reflects my commitment to understanding and contributing to the regulatory frameworks that are vital for the growth and governance of emerging financial technologies.
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Zuzanna Czernicka

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