Postcard from Copenhagen: EuroScience Open Forum 2014

Postcard from Copenhagen: EuroScience Open Forum 2014

The EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) is a unique, eclectic event, where researchers from across Europe can engage in dialogue about their work with politicians, journalists, representatives of industry, and members of the public of all ages.  It’s an amazing environment, packed with energy, enthusiasm and wonder for what the future will hold -- plus a healthy dose of pragmatism about the societal, ethical and political implications of new breakthroughs.

Since the first ESOF in Stockholm a decade ago, the event has travelled to cities around Europe, including Munich, Barcelona, Turin and Dublin.  ESOF 2014 was hosted by Copenhagen and attracted more than 4000 delegates, whilst the accompanying ‘Science and the City’ program was attended by 38 000 members of the public.

We were delighted that Google Lunar XPRIZE’s proposal to hold a public session at ESOF 2014 about ‘Mining the Moon’ was accepted – and that the ESOF organisers kindly invited us to use one of their press briefing slots to highlight this theme to the media. 

Last Monday, 23 June, we arrived in Copenhagen’s Carlsberg City district – the original home of the famous brewing company – to debate humanity’s future on the Moon.  In keeping with ESOF’s aims of cross-disciplinary debate, it was my privilege to bring together a panel that included a scientist, an entrepreneur and a politician: 

Bernard Foing, Senior Exploration officer at the European Space Agency and Executive Director of the International Lunar Exploration Working Group, has one successful lunar mission under his belt and would like to see more.  Bernard was the lead project scientist of the SMART-1 orbiter, Europe’s first lunar mission, which succeeded in mapping the chemical make-up of the Moon’s surface, including the distribution of valuable resources like magnesium and titanium.  Bernard’s goal is to see all the international players with plans for lunar exploration – both governmental and commercial – working together to create a sustainable human base that uses lunar resources in situ.  The reasons behind this are mainly professional, but also personal: Bernard shared with the ESOF audience his ambition to spend his last days as one of the first human settlers on Mars and his certainty that the Moon will be a vital stepping-stone in achieving this!

Robert Böhme is the leader of the Part-Time Scientists, one of our 18 teams competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE.  Robert represents a new generation of entrepreneurs looking to develop commercial access to the Moon and infrastructure on the lunar surface. Robert told us that Part Time Scientists plan to use their Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge and follow-up missions to start to set in place the communications networks that will be needed to support future activities on the lunar surface, such as exploration, prospecting and mining.  

Britta Thomsen has been a Member of the European Parliament since 2004 and has been a member of both the ITRE Committee, responsible for Industry Research and Energy, and the Sky and Space Intergroup.  Ms Thomsen compared the new commercial race to the Moon to exploration of the New World by Magellan, Columbus and other legendary explorers.  She highlighted the need for those developing a presence on the Moon to take a strategic approach and learn from lessons of the past.  

Finally, LEGO experts Martyn Boogaarts and Eric Steensrta gave our audience the opportunity to try their hand at operating robots on the Moon, with our MoonBots-in-a-Box kit.

Both the session and the press briefing were fantastic opportunities to engage with a diverse, international audience and hear some of their perspectives on the future of lunar exploration.

Although the main session was not recorded, you can watch the stream from the press briefing

You can also find out how the session was reported by some of the journalists at the meeting by following these links:

Time to mine the moon (Channel 4, UK)

Mine The Moon For Valuable Resources? (GE News)

Europe's largest science festival gets underway - Who owns the Moon? (RTE Radio 1, Ireland)

Google wants you to go to the Moon (Science Nordic)

Der Mond als Rohstoffgrube (Deutschlandfunk, Germany) (Translation: The Moon as a raw material to mine)

Dansk forsker: Vi går i gang med minedrift på Månen om få år  (Videnskab.dk, Denmark) (Translation:

Danish scientist: We are in the process of mining on the moon in a few years )

Cartoline da ESOF2014: fisica, vermi e un po di Lunaartoline da ESOF2014: fisica, vermi e un po' di Luna (La Scienza, Italy) (Translation: Postcards from ESOF 2014: physics, worms and a bit of the moon )

Ekko hovedsending: Forskningskonferanse i København (NRK Radio, Norway) (Translation: Echoing the main dispatches: Science Conference in Copenhagen)

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