The “global” economy may soon include the lunar realm, with a Japanese firm pledging to erect billboards on the Moon by 2020.
Ambitious start-up ispace said that it has raised 10.2 billion yen ($90.2 million) in series A funding to develop a lunar lander and two lunar missions to bring Earth-based marketing to the rocky satellite in just over two years. By 2040, the company foresee a resident lunar population of 1,000 people with a bustling tourist industry of 10,000 visitors annually.
The private Tokyo-based company claim its funding is the largest ever series A raised in Japan as well as the largest to date for commercial space exploration. The business received backing from Suzuki Motor, Japan Airlines, Innovation Network Corporation of Japan and Development Bank of Japan, among others.
“ispace is commercializing lunar resource development to extend human presence beyond Earth,” read a press release on the ispace website. The company plans to offer a so-called “projection mapping service”, a small billboard for corporations to display company branding to lunar tourists.
The start-up’s plans rely heavily on the “Moon’s water resources” which science has not yet established as accessible. Nevertheless, ispace envisages tourism, communications, transportation, agriculture and medicine thriving on the Moon. The group wants to “create a world where the Earth and the Moon are one ecosystem.”
Mission 1 would entail a lander launch in the final quarter of 2019 for observation purposes. Mission 2, set for takeover in the fourth quarter of 2020, will involve an attempt at “soft landing on the Moon, deploying multiple rovers to explore and map the surface.” The lunar lander would accommodate around 30kg payload, including two lunar rovers holding up to 5kg each.
“Human beings aren’t heading to the stars to become poor,” Takeshi Hakamada, chief executive officer of Ispace, said at a press event in Tokyo, reported Bloomberg. “That’s why it’s crucial to create an economy in outer space.”
Certain sectors of the engineering and marketing industries have been researching possibilities of exploiting the “cislunar space” – the region between the Earth and Moon – for commercial gain since at least the 1960s.
“The sustainability of human presence on the Moon depends on the development of a viable lunar economy based on the commercially profitable use of the Moon’s unique resources and environment,” said a 2005 report from Bechtel, Boeing and Maguire Energy Institute (MEI). This ideation is known as in-situ resource utilisation (ISRU), and is key to the viability of any plan to colonise the moon.
US-based ULA, a partnership between Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing Defense, Space & Security, last year theorized a lunar population of 1,000 people within 30 years, capable of large scale manufacturing and asteroid mining. The plans would generate a projected “gross space product” of $2.7 trillion per year.
President Trump’s administration reportedly drafted plans uncovered by Politico in February granting “private lunar landers staking out de facto ‘property rights’ for American on the Moon, by 2020.”
A British-led consortium plans to drill 100m into the Lunar South Pole in 2024 in a project known as Lunar Mission One.