Moving to the Moon – with Calum Hervieu


It’s a big day in
space exploration on the 50th anniversary of
the Apollo moon landing. And also, right
now, as we speak, Luca Parmitano, who’s a
European astronaut– this man on the right-hand side here–
and his Russian and American colleagues are sitting
aboard more than 100 tonnes of rocket fuel about to blast
off to the International Space Station. I wonder if his heart is
beating as fast as mine. Now, we’re going to
talk about the moon. As some of you have
probably guessed already, I was not alive during
1969 Apollo moon landings. I was born some 24 years later. And so I decided, as your
last speaker tonight, it’s probably best that I
don’t speak about the last 50 years of exploration,
but perhaps, the next 50 years
of exploration. So I want to talk to you
first, before we begin, about a man named
Krafft Arnold Ehricke. And so Krafft Arnold was a
German rocket scientist who was moved from Nazi Germany to
America underneath Operation Paperclip, whereby the
Americans tried to consolidate their knowledge in advanced
weaponry and rocketry for the Apollo programme– for what became the
Apollo programme. Krafft worked with a great
engineer of this time. He even wrote a
book with von Braun, who later went on
to design the Saturn V that landed man on the moon. And Krafft spent his
life philosophising about the broader
aspects of space travel and the colonisation
of other worlds. He believed that
we needed to expand our presence off the
surface of the earth by first utilising the moon. He called this philosophy the
extraterrestrial imperative, this idea that if we remain
bound to planet Earth, then we are doomed to fail. We suffer from
our own successes. This is most evident, I think,
in our generation, right now, with climate change– the
climate crisis and also booming population. And so in one of his
many books, Krafft Arnold wrote, “If God had wanted man
to become a spacefaring species, he would have given him a moon.” For him, it was obvious
that the only way that we can continue
to explore and continue to be successful as a
species in the long term is to expand into space. And he dreamed that
one day we would utilise the moon
as a stepping stone to the rest of the solar system. Now, Krafft died in 1984,
having seen his dream for lunar expiration go unfulfilled
with the death of the Apollo programme. And he received a space
burial in the 1990s. His ashes were launched into
orbit, only to one day decay and burn up in the atmosphere. But it seems that now, almost
40 years later after his death, we are on the cusp of a
new era of exploration focused on the moon. But I want to be
very, very clear, this is not a new journey
that we are making. It’s not a new era. It’s simply a
continuation of the things that we’ve been doing for
decades, for centuries, even for millennia. We are inherently, as a
species, very inquisitive, curious, and exploratory. It’s been endowed in us by
the evolutionary process. And so this is what
makes me so confident that expansion into
the solar system is completely inevitable. And not only is it
inevitable, I would be so bold as to say that it’s
no longer a matter of technological
constraint, but solely a problem of public
and political will. Let me remind you that we have
operated an outpost in space for 20 years continuously
without a single break. The International
Space Station, or ISS, is the most complex thing
that we have ever developed. It has an estimated cost of
about 100 billion pounds. And at 8%, the European share
of this phenomenal machine costs each and every one of
us about one pound per year. And not only has it given us
these amazing views of planet Earth, it’s a place where
astronauts like Tim Peake can go to perform science that
can benefit us here on Earth. And of course he’s allowed to
have a little bit fun, as well. And so the ISS is
being used to prepare us to become a fully-functioning
spacefaring species. We’re learning how to
live and work in space. And that’s not bad
for one pound a year. And so the moon has formed
this desolate backdrop to a new age of space
exploration, this continuation of our exploratory journey. But this new era is one that
is populated not by spacefaring superpowers seeking to
fly flags and footprints, but by numerous private
companies that are trying to demonstrate the capability
to fly 385,000 kilometres to the vacuous blackness of
space to safely soft-land on our celestial neighbour. It was first demonstrated
last year by SpaceIL with their Beresheet
lander, which many of you may have heard of. They got to lunar orbit, which
is an incredibly impressive feat, before, unfortunately,
suffering an engine failure that saw
them crash very hard, more than 400 kilometres an
hour into the lunar surface. But apart from SpaceIL,
there are countless teams of engineers, scientists,
policymakers, managers, and more striving to
reach the lunar surface. I work for one of them. We plan to land right
here in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, about 30 degrees
east, 20 degrees north of the lunar equator. And the space aficionados
among you may recognise this as the landing site
of the Apollo 17, the place where Gene Cernan,
a personal hero of mine, last set foot on the moon. But we’re not the only
ones, by no means. And there are several
other companies who are each trying to land
commercial payloads, science payloads, even private
payloads on the lunar surface or in lunar orbit. And so the price tag to
complete this magnificent feat of engineering– any guesses? How much would you pay to
land one kilogramme of payload on the moon? Anyone? A billion? I heard $1 billion. One up here? $20 billion. $20 billion? One up here? $200 million. $200 million, wow. Well, you guys are going to
be very pleasantly surprised. We’re only charging about
a million for a kilogramme, so that’s several
orders of magnitude cheaper than you expected. However, I do want you to think
about this number for just one second. So I’ve been talking
about exploration as a more permanent aspect,
rather than just landing, for example, the
science payload. And so one kilogramme
represents one litre of water. And so $1 million for one
litre of water on the moon is quite a lot of money. And so as the space
industry continuously vies with the biggest
problems of our generation for its fair share of public
funding and public support, we in the industry have
to try really, really hard to generate cheaper and
sustainable exploration goals. But if we truly want to do
this– if we really think, OK, as a species, we’re going
to work across borders, and we’re going to expand
off the surface of the Earth and try and develop a moon base,
a moon village, whatever you’d like to call it, we have
to do better than this. And so how could
we possibly afford that, when the
basic amenities are costing about a million dollars
per kilogramme, one litre, of water? The answer I believe
and many people believe lies in going back to the
roots of human existence, living off the land. And so this brings
me to my first reason for why we should go back to
the moon, lunar resources. So in 1969, Buzz Aldrin
described the moon’s surface as magnificent desolation. And it appears to be exactly
that at first glance. But believe it or not,
underneath the unmoving grey surface layers is a treasure
trove of resources that are adequate to nurture a
settlement of future explorers. And the lunar regolith
itself, the lunar dust, is made up of oxygen, silicon,
iron, and aluminium, magnesium, calcium, and others– even
things like helium-3, which have been theorised
we could mine and use in our nuclear fusion reactors,
which have yet to be built. But for the interest
of time, I’m going to move on to, probably,
the most interesting resource, and that’s lunar water. So who here is aware
that the moon has water? People must have
heard of that, right? Yeah, great. And so it’s been long theorised,
simply for this reason– the axial tilt of
the moon is very, very slightly offset from what
we call the orbital plane, 1.5 degrees away
from the sun’s rays. And so what that means
is if you were standing right up here on the top of
the north pole or down here in the south pole,
the sun’s rays are very, very low in the sky. And this is an incredibly
stable geometry, because the moon is what we
call tidally locked to Earth. That is, we always
see this familiar face of the moon, the light
side of the moon, because its period of
rotation matches its orbit around the earth, one month. And so this geometry
has been stable for several billion years–
at least two, if not more, billion years. And so the idea is that if
we stand on the south pole, then we can see that we get
these really long shadows that are being cast by the
sun’s low angle in the sky. This is a rendering
of Shackleton crater from the European
Space Agency, which is a crater that sits almost
exactly on the lunar south pole. And what you can see is it’s
entirely swathed in darkness. The sun has never, for
2 billion years or more, touched the inside
of that crater. And so because of no
atmosphere on the moon, we have these very, very
stark temperature differences, down to minus 180 degrees
inside the crater and up to 50, or maybe even a little bit
more, on the sunny side of the crater. And so it was theorised
for a long time that water could find itself
trapped in these craters and just lie dormant for
several billions of years, until a plucky astronaut
comes along and takes it and starts to drink it. And we first got
evidence of this in 2009. It was definitively
confirmed just last year by NASA’s Moon Mineralogy
Mapper aboard the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, an
Indian spacecraft. And what you can see
are these blue dots, and they align very nicely
with all these craters. This is Shackleton crater,
which, as you can see, is very close to the
lunar south pole. And it has a really high
density of confirmed water measurements. And this is very, very
interesting for us because we can massively reduce
the cost of going to space– landing on the moon if
we can access this water. With lunar water, we get the
ability to create a sustainable moon base. As a few examples, with
water, we can grow food. We can obviously drink it. We can electrolyze the water
into its constituent parts, hydrogen and oxygen, which is
already common practise aboard the International Space Station. That’s how they generate
oxygen. And as mentioned in the previous talk, water is
a very good radiation protection because it has quite
high hydrogen content. And thinking even much further
into the future, at least 20, maybe 30 years, we could
generate rocket fuel by mining the water and splitting it,
again, into liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. In fact,
Blue Origin, Amazon’s partner company in space,
by Jeff Bezos– they unveiled a lunar
lander a few months ago. And its engines run off liquid
hydrogen and liquid oxygen, not because it’s
the best propellant, but because it’s the
one that can be fueled by ice water on the moon. And so what we are
seeing here is basically a map of the
gravitational energy between the earth and the moon. And so we all know that you
have to use a really, really big rocket to get off
the surface of the earth. Essentially, the
reason for that is because the earth
is quite massive, and so it bends
spacetime around it. It creates a very, very
strong gravitational potential that you have to climb out of. So for every
kilogramme of payload that you take to the moon, you
have to burn a lot more fuel– generally, at least 10
times, if not 25 times, as much fuel to get above
this potential arc up to here. The moon, however,
is much smaller, and so it has a smaller
gravitational potential. Therefore, if we can mine the
moon and create fuel there, the moon can become
fueling station on a highway to deep space. And it will maybe unlock
future destinations for much cheaper, much more accessible,
and make everything more affordable in the long term. And so if I say to you
“deep space destinations,” what do you tend to think of? Mars, exactly. And so that’s what
I tend to think of. I am a huge proponent
of Mars exploration. If you are not, feel free to
come and talk to me at the end, and we can argue about that. And so about one month ago,
I engaged in a shameless ploy to get a few more
Twitter followers. I asked this question. I said, “People of
space and science, I’d like your opinion for
The Royal Institution please. Should humans go to
the moon once more before heading to Mars?” So what do we think? Who thinks, we’ve been to
the moon– we’ve done that– let’s just go straight to Mars? A couple– 2, 3, 4, 5. OK, a fair few. And who’s a little bit more
conservative– thinks, OK, let’s go to the moon,
practise– it’s been 50 years. Let’s see how we go, and then– OK, the vast majority. I don’t know if it’s a
good thing or a bad thing, but the internet agrees with
you, the vast majority– so that’s good. I had a modest 320
votes, and 78% of people said “Moon then Mars.” I happen to agree with you. I do think that the “Mars first”
proponents are enthusiastic, to say the least. And so this is my
second reason for going to the moon as a stepping
stone onto on Mars and on the other deep
space destinations. And so the reason for
this, ultimately, for me, boils down to a few
really key figures. Does anyone know the distance to
Mars off the top of their head? Anyone have a guess? Yeah? 300 days. 300 days? Do you know that in distance–
in miles or kilometres? [INAUDIBLE] 70 million kilometres? Do we have one over here? 25 million miles. 25 million miles? That’s pretty close. Both of you are
very, very close. It’s actually 220
million kilometres. But it does go much less,
down towards 70 million, but not quite that low. But 220 million kilometres is
a good average for the moon– for Mars, sorry. And the moon, as I
already mentioned, is more like 385,000
kilometres, so we’re immediately much closer. And why that’s important is
the comment that you just made, my friend, which
is the travel time. So you said about 300 days. It takes, generally, six
months to get to Mars. But it can take up
to nine months, which is something like 300 days. And the moon is more
like three to five days. And so what is more important
than this three to six months is perhaps the
light travel time. So if we send a signal– say you’re on Mars,
and you have a problem. You send a signal– Houston, we have a problem. It takes 20 minutes
for that signal to go from Mars to Earth. And then 20 minutes later,
you will hear the reply, OK, here’s what to do. So you have a 40-minute
round-trip delay between Mars and Earth,
which, operationally, can be a really big
concern, especially if your life depends on the
knowledge of the ground crew. Whereas, on the moon, that
is less than two seconds. So essentially, we can have
instantaneous communication between Earth and the moon. And so this is really the reason
why I think that we simply aren’t ready to go to Mars,
because we need to practise. And the only way we can practise
is a near-term objective. And this is exactly what
Krafft Arnold Ehricke, the German rocket
scientist I told you about at the beginning,
was talking about– that if we have a moon, we have
a place that we can practise. We can use it as
a stepping stone– as a playground to develop
technologies and operations that take us to deeper
space destinations that can be reliable and safe. It’s worth noting that
we only have detailed long-term data for human health
in space by the ISS, which has zero-g, or
microgravity, and on Earth, which is 1 times g, 1 times
the acceleration of Earth. The moon is 1/6 g, and Mars
is something like 1/3 g. And we have simply no idea
what happens to the human body if it suffers prolonged
exposure to 1/6 g or 1/3 g. Another factor of Mars
being so, so far away is that orbital
mechanics essentially dictates that you
have to stay there on the surface for up to 500
days, which is longer, already, than anyone has ever spent
consecutively in space and doesn’t even account
for the six months it takes to get there and the six
months it takes to get back. There are countless
medical issues that we have discovered going
to International Space Station. Your bone density
decreases with– the calcium begins
to, essentially, fall out of your bones
because they’re not bearing the load of gravity anymore. Intracranial pressure
in your brain goes up as the fluids
start to swell and float to the top of your head. They physically squeeze
astronauts eyeballs and squeeze their
eyeballs out of focus. We have space
adaptation syndrome, whereby the vestibular
system gets confused because everything’s floating. And so if you put junk
in, it pulled junk out. So for the first
few days to weeks, the astronauts can
feel very, very ill. And there are countless
more examples of these. I’m not a medical doctor, so I
won’t talk too much about that. But we simply have no idea what
happens if we go to a smaller amount of g-force– a smaller acceleration– 1/6 g
on the moon or 1/3 g on Mars. So this is something
that needs to be tested. I’m going to show you
a small video, which may shatter this vision we
have of the Apollo astronauts being these godlike fighter
pilots, test pilots, et cetera. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] Oh, dad-gummit. Jack Schmitt is
having a few problems. [MUSIC PLAYING] Hang on. All right, good show. I told them you were. Whoops! OK. Well, you see that one
went all the way in. Not quite. But there it is, all
but about five inches. This goes on for a
long time, by the way. We could keep watching. [LAUGHTER] [END PLAYBACK] But I’m going to have to
stop that there, I’m afraid. So it’s very easy to sit
and laugh at the astronauts as they fall over on the moon. I get that. But the point of the
video is that it’s supposed to show that this is
a very bizarre environment. It’s an environment we don’t
actually know that much about. Now, in the interest
of time, again, I don’t want to go into all
the technological details. But there are countless
things that we could benefit from by
practicing on the moon first. Some of the most important
ones are radiation protection, like was mentioned
in the last talk. We really simply
have no solution to this, other than burying
underground or hiding during solar storms, which
is not, operationally, particularly a very
effective method. Things like shelter,
growing food– if you’re going to be dependent
on the food that you grow, you want to make
sure that it will grow before you go on to Mars. And it’s worth pointing out that
all of these technologies, not only do they benefit
us for creating a more reliable and
safer future exploration, but they also benefit
us here on Earth. Because all of
these technologies have spin-ins here
on earth that can be used in things like
Earth observation and data, and transport aviation, and
all of these other specialisms. And that brings me to the
third and final reason for going back to the moon. And that’s simply for Earth. So has anyone here heard
of the overview effect? We have one up here. Do you mind telling us
what it is please, sir? It’s about basically
feeling that there’s something greater– Yes. –that put us all
together on [INAUDIBLE].. Yes, exactly. And I promise I
didn’t plan him there, but that is better than I
could have expressed it. It is exactly that. It is this
self-reported idea that comes back from many
astronauts from all the way from the Apollo up to
the International Space Station astronauts nowadays
where they look at the Earth for the
first time from orbit, and they see countries
without borders. They see this thin blue
line that shows really how small our atmosphere
actually is, this thing that we all depend on. And so the real reason that
space exploration, I think, is fundamentally
important is it allows us to reflect on our
position in the universe and how we work together as
a species across borders. And so we’ve all
seen this image, the Earthrise from Apollo 8. This was taken on
Christmas Eve, 1968. And it was credited
by Time Magazine as sparking the environmentalist
movement in the ’70s. And at the time, or a few
years later, Norman Cousins, who was a peace advocate
and journalist wrote, “What was most significant about
the Apollo programme was not that they set foot on the
moon, but that they set eye on Earth.” And in my generation,
we have been the beneficiaries
of a new perspective on Earth countless times. This image was taken by
a robot on the surface of another planet. I can’t get over that. This image excites me. And this is Earth shining
brightly in the Martian sky. We can go even further, 900
million miles away, to Saturn and see the earth
still shining brightly against the blackness
of the universe. and it really helps, I think,
to define our perspective and show how beautiful,
but also maybe how insignificant some of the
problems on Earth really are. And so in the age
of climate change and other political divisions
that I won’t mention by name, I think that the moon can
really serve as a common goal and as a shining beacon of
what we can do when we really work together across borders
for exploration and for science. Because ultimately,
everything we do in space is for the benefit of
all of us here on Earth. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE]

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