Stanford On The Moon: Future Directions / Symposium Recap
Dear Stanford Community Colleagues and Friends:
The Stanford On The Moon Symposium, which took place 2 October 2004, was attended by about 25 presenters and participants. A number of new alumni and graduate students became aware of our initiative through advertising we had placed in the Stanford Magazine, The Stanford Daily, and our posting on the Stanford University website of Events at Stanford. We were very happy to find that our media outreach efforts were successful in attracting these new members. Our Stanford On The Moon Conference, scheduled for Saturday, October 22, 2005, will be substantially larger since it coincides with a reunion year for the Class of 1965. The presence of that class, coupled with outreach arising from the ideas and relationships of new participants and other classes, will contribute to a substantial alumni presence in 2005.
Steve Durst presented a keynote address in which he recounted the genesis of the Stanford On The Moon concept and its relationship to the Class of 1965. He mentioned his classmates, Jim McCotter, Kristi Nelson, Ruth Richards, Chia Tze, Bill Brown and Sharon Swinyard, who have contributed their ideas and support to this initiative since its inception at the 2000 Reunion. As well, Steve identified other individuals on campus who had made efforts to develop a Moon project at Stanford. They have now joined us, bringing substantial technical expertise and fresh ideas with them.
Michelle Gonella offered a recap of the progress and outreach which occurred since the last Stanford On The Moon exploratory committee meeting. We have been working closely with Professor Bruce Lusignan and his Space Systems students to examine potential goals and student interest / involvement with the initiative. Outreach efforts have extended to Stanford alumni donors, who have been introduced to the project through informational packet and postcard mailings, as well as through articles and advertisements which appeared in Stanford publications. Future outreach is planned over the course of the next year which will extend to the University’s administrative body, alumni clubs, the Overseas Studies Program, and sports programs.
Stanford Professors Bob Twiggs and Bruce Lusignan outlined a particularly attractive potential lunar mission for the initial efforts of Stanford On The Moon. Bob Twiggs has been involved for many years with research and educational projects utilizing very small satellites, often called Cubesats. Most revolutionary is the OTS, or “off the shelf” technology which describes the fact that these satellites are constructed at a remarkably low cost from electronics readily available in local shopping centers. Bob’s idea is to sponsor a national campaign in which Stanford alumni clubs sponsor students in each of the 50 states to build a Cubesat which will carry an individual science project, of the students’ design, around the Moon. All of the Cubesats would launch together on a single rocket. Bruce Lusignan has offered to work with us in arranging for a rocket through the DNEPR Program, which utilizes modified ICBM missiles in Russia. Once launched, the Cubesat Regatta would travel to the Moon and back in only seven days. The satellites are controlled from laptop computers and can be viewed with home telescopes. This would be a national project which would allow alumni to bring attention to the need for lunar utilization and Stanford University’s role therein, as well as support local communities in a major educational undertaking. We are gathering more information with regard to this project and look forward to your thoughts and ideas.
Other lunar mission presentations included Nicolas Gascon and San Gunawardana, graduate students who appeared on behalf of Professor Mark A. Cappelli to discuss lunar exploration utilizing high impulse ion rockets. Mark and Nick had attempted to coordinate a Stanford Moon Project in 2002-3 through the Engineering Department. Interestingly enough, the Stanford On The Moon exploratory committee had held a meeting on campus within days of the Stanford Moon Project announcement date, yet neither group was aware of the other until one of our advertisements in the Stanford Magazine caught Mark’s attention this year. The Stanford Moon Project was planned to reach the Moon by 2007, through three consecutive missions, and situate an electronic billboard with a camera that would relay the billboard messages against the lunar landscape.
Our private venture lunar mission presentations opened with TransOrbital, Inc. CEO Dennis Laurie, who spoke about TrailBlazer, the first fully licensed commercial lunar mission. TrailBlazer will be orbiting the Moon at an altitude of only 50 km for a period of 90 days. During that time, TrailBlazer will compile the most detailed mapping of the lunar surface to date and transmit live feed video which will feature EarthRise, the image of the Earth rising over the Moon. EarthRise is inspirational as a new perspective on Earth and its relationship to outer space, as well as being a commercially viable product. TransOrbital, Inc. is putting together final funding required to make this remarkable project a reality within the next year. We would certainly welcome hearing from parties interested in investing in or donating to this worthy venture.
Claudio Maccone, a lecturer at the Politecnico in Turin and member of the International Academy of Astronautics, presented a lunar mission add-on to TrailBlazer. Frequently space exploration missions provide space to appropriate experiments, often carrying scientific measuring devices which weigh no more than a few grams as part of their payload. Claudio’s proposal, “RLI: A Radiometer Around The Moon” would determine how radio quiet the farside actually is. This experiment would be highly significant in its relationship to radioastronomy and SETI observation, as well as being the first private scientific payload carried to the Moon.
SpaceDev, the high profile Poway, California company that produced the propulsion system for SpaceShipOne and recently received government contracts for the development of satellites and a reusable suborbital spaceship, has been contracted by Lunar Enterprise Corporation, the developmental arm of Space Age Publishing Company, to develop an International Lunar Observatory. Steve Durst gave a brief overview of this exciting project which could place a submillimeter dish observatory on the lunar South Pole by the end of 2006.
During our open forum with the alumni there were some very timely and interesting thoughts that we believe will be important to pursue. Josh Alwood, alumnus and current graduate student, suggested that an interdepartmental center could be developed on campus to stimulate further discussion, brainstorming, and projects related to the Moon. There are interdisciplinary programs already in place which link science and engineering students with entrepreneurship mentors. The full scope of this concept might be exploited to facilitate a more comprehensive approach to lunar utilization. Josh also broached the possibility of alumni funded prizes, like the X-Prize, which would stimulate research and development and foster the growth of new professional relationships. Alumnus Gerry Tucker drew our attention to the Stanford Amateur Radio Club, which engages in “Moonbounce” communications experiments with international involvement. Math and science journalist Dana Mackenzie pointed out that previous efforts in lunar exploration have focused strongly on science and neglected the humanitarian aspects of the Moon and its relationship to the arts. This harmonizes with ideas from Ruth Richards, Class of 1965, who has suggested that exploring outer space will be most successful if it coincides with cultivation of “inner space.” Veronique Koken, a continuing studies participant who holds a graduate degree in Aeronautical Science, suggested designating a lunar holiday, much like “Earthday,” which would offer an opportunity for lunar enthusiasts of all persuasions to interact on a social level.
Following the Symposium, the members enjoyed lunch at the Coffee House along with some good conversation and the opportunity to “talk shop” with the lunar mission presenters. A small group then went to the Mechanical Engineering Lab utilized by Professor Mark Cappelli and his colleagues to develop ion engines such as the Hall Thruster. Nicolas Gascon displayed and explained the thrusters, as well as showing us some of the equipment and recent projects. Everyone was amazed at the small size of these engines that are capable of taking an orbiter to the Moon.
The Stanford On The Moon Conference 2005, which will be on 22 October 2005, is already taking shape. Homecoming reunions scheduled for the same weekend will ensure that many alumni will be on campus and available to participate in this important initiative. We are extending invitations to some very special guest speakers for the Conference, as well as planning a Friday night reception / mixer to introduce our initiative to alumni from the reunion classes. We will be moving forward with outreach to the administration, the Overseas Studies Program, and athletic department, as well as our continuing outreach to alumni. We will also be examining the feasibility of the Stanford Cubesat Lunar Regatta, which will provide educational and inspirational opportunities to students and members of the Stanford community throughout the nation, as well as introducing alumni clubs to the Stanford On The Moon initiative. We are looking forward to involving the entire Stanford community with this significant step toward the realization of Stanford On The Moon.
Durst, Class of 1965