Accepted paper:

Lunar extractivism: scientists and mining companies' shared ambitions in the European Space Agency's Moon Village concept

Author:

Tamara Alvarez (The New School )

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic material gathered during a two-year fieldwork at the European Space Agency, this paper examines the technological and operational synergies between scientific expertise and extractive industries in ESA's lunar settlement concept.

Paper long abstract:

In 2015 the European Space Agency's newly appointed Director General announced his ambition towards a Moon Village, a permanent base on the lunar south pole. Advocates insisted on the settlement's scientific promises, including the billion-year history of the Solar System that hides in the Moon's untouched geologic record, waiting to be unearthed. In the last two years, space mining companies' increased support of the concept has further encouraged the agency's research on extractive technologies —drills, rovers, and remote sensing spectrometers—, revealing important synergies between science and industry: geologists' and planetary scientists' quest to understand the history of the cosmos, astrobiologists' search for extraterrestrial life, and mining companies' hunt for rare earth minerals depend on the same artifacts, techniques and operations, especially those implicated in sample return missions. Drawing on ethnographic material gathered during a two-year fieldwork at ESA, this paper examines the technological and operational convergences of scientific expertise and extractive industries in ESA's lunar settlement concept.

panel A07
Techno-scientific expertise and geographical imaginaries in the making of new resource frontiers