Our Upcoming Areas of Research

We are excited to unveil the areas we're concentrating on for our forthcoming fellowship cohort, launching in January 2024.

At Open Lunar, we’re harnessing the expertise of our community. This year, we gathered over 30 innovative ideas from the diverse group of experts that support our vision for a peaceful lunar presence. We diligently assessed each idea against Open Lunar's impact criteria, collaborating with around 25 trusted experts. After a thorough assessment and analysis, we're now ready to unveil which ideas have advanced as our next research priorities.

These criteria delve deep into factors such as the potential to enhance cooperation, minimize conflict, amplify non-state commons management, gauge industry readiness levels, and more. You can learn more about our criteria and the selection process from Ideas to Hunches in our recent blog post “Deciding Where We Invest”.

With the results from this community-driven process, we have identified new ‘Hunches’ for Open Lunar to invest in through supported research. We are excited to unveil the areas we're concentrating on for our forthcoming fellowship cohort, launching in January 2024. 

A note of clarity: featuring on our list doesn't guarantee a hunch will secure a fellowship. Our process is twofold - identifying transformative hunches and pairing them with the right researchers. Based on the seven domains outlined below, we anticipate bringing on board 4-6 fellows for the upcoming cohort.

Our research areas, though broad in scope, are intentional. Much of our approach is collaborative, working closely with our esteemed fellows and sector specialists to pinpoint areas primed for impactful exploration.

Here’s a closer look at our identified areas of research:

Areas of Research

Special Zones for Lunar Activities: Just as special zones for permitted activities have been established in various industries (such as the designated areas for nuclear tests on Earth), Open Lunar is keen to explore the feasibility of such zones on the Moon. These zones could range from unregulated and economic areas to protective zones catering to specific activities like free crater exploration, safeguarded biological experiments, science-exclusive zones, and more. 

Borrowing from Earth's experience, what might the legal, ethical, and logistical challenges of such zones be? Drawing parallels with Earth's marine protected areas and nuclear test sites, research could delve into the scope, benefits, and potential pitfalls of special lunar zones. This might guide exploration into space law with an emphasis on lunar activities and the potential crafting of hypothetical lunar zone scenarios. Derived insights could aid in devising a policy framework, and the project may be further enriched with illustrative maps and designs to envisage these zones on the Moon.

Landing Pads: With the Moon’s infrastructure still in its formative phase, it becomes pivotal to ensure its sustainable growth. Open Lunar envisions exploring the creation of a cooperative landing pad infrastructure governed by transparency and collaboration. The core of this research might focus on the open-source modeling of a cooperative business plan inviting multiple stakeholders. Cost-benefit analysis, building on the foundational work by Open Lunar Fellow Jeffrey Montes could also form an integral part of this study.

Community Review: The burgeoning lunar missions highlight a clear gap—a standardized review process for lunar payloads. Taking cues from systems like ICANN and the FAA, this research focus explores establishing a transparent payload review mechanism. Centered around community values, the research might emphasize devising criteria, rating systems, and mapping strategies for wide-ranging participation. Pilot programs, potentially analyzing historical payload data, could serve as preliminary steps.

Payload X: A decade after the Low Cost Lunar Workshop, this research area seeks to revisit lunar settlement challenges in light of 2023’s technological advancements. Central to this research could be a thorough gap analysis, culminating in the proposal of key payloads to bolster lunar development. An exciting avenue might be the ideation of open-source/hardware payloads. A comprehensive roadmap, highlighting gaps, potential payloads, and collaborators, would make a valuable contribution to lunar progression.

Power Standards: Power is the lifeline of lunar missions. Open Lunar’s quest is to discern the current standardization in lunar power provisions. The research might involve a deep dive into both the public and private sectors, examining existing standards like ISPSIS. Recommendations might not only touch upon voluntary standards fostering ease in lunar power provisioning but also delve into how these standards can magnify lunar governance and stewardship, championing values of cooperation, transparency, and openness.

Network Timekeeping Protocol: Space timekeeping is a challenge unlike any other. Open Lunar’s vision is to convene an international consortium to chalk out a timekeeping protocol tailored for the cislunar environment. Building on the groundwork laid by Phillip Linden for Open Lunar, research might manifest in a two-pronged approach: designing the protocol and its subsequent testing. Flight tests with clocks and interoperability assessments with other assets can serve as real-world validations. 

Registry of Accidents and Issues: The lunar landscape can be unpredictable. This area of research explores the possibility of constructing a comprehensive registry that logs accidents and issues across all lunar missions. The Federal Aviation Administration has Accident and Incident Data available, which has been regarded as a positive program intended to ensure the safest possible system by identifying and correcting unsafe conditions before they lead to accidents. 

Similarly, Open Lunar is currently investigating the creation of establishing a global multistakeholder registry of objects and activities. Research could aim at investigating the following: Could this registry be housed within existing efforts? What kind of value could the registry bring to the industry? Do stakeholders see value? What is the impact of similar registries on safety and coordination? Define what counts as an "accident" and "issue" in lunar missions. How would information be collected, or incentivized? 

How to get involved?

There are a few ways to get involved with our upcoming hunches: 

Stay Updated: Subscribe to our newsletter or apply to become a member of our slack community.

Apply to be a Fellow and help us explore these areas: You can apply for our upcoming fellowship here. If you have previously applied for a fellowship role with Open Lunar, we recommend that you resubmit an application to ensure your experience is up to date and to indicate your particular interest in areas from this list. Key dates related to the fellowship below:

  • Fellowship Q&A Event - October 11, 0900 PT Register here

  • Fellowships Close - October 20, 2023

  • Selection of Fellows - Week of November 30, 2023

  • Community Event Introducing Fellows and Research - December 5, 0930 PT Register here

  • Fellowship Kickoff: January 2024

Become a technical advisor: If you possess expertise in any of the areas mentioned above, we'd love to collaborate. Reach out directly to rachel@openlunar.org and consider becoming a strategic advisor on one of our high-impact research topics.