Why should we go back to the moon? | The TechTank Podcast

Darrell M. West,
Darrell West
Darrell M. West Senior Fellow - Center for Technology Innovation, Douglas Dillon Chair in Governmental Studies

Tom Colvin, and
Tom Colvin Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Technology, Policy, and Strategy (OTPS) - NASA
Regina Ta
Regina Ta
Regina Ta Research Intern - The Brookings Institution

August 28, 2023

  • NASA and various nations are preparing not only to return to the moon, but also to extend their exploration to Mars and beyond.
  • This collective focus on the moon indicates the increasing importance of lunar research and potential resource utilization.
  • Insights into implications of new lunar landings will shed light on the potential for international collaboration, scientific discovery, and advancements in space technology.

Relativity Space launched its Terran 1, an entirely 3D printed rocket, from Launch Complex 16 in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Wednesday night (22March2023).
Standing at 110 ft. tall and 7.5 ft. wide, Terran 1 is the largest 3D printed object to attempt orbital flight. As a two-stage, expendable rocket, Terran 1 has nine 3D printed Aeon engines on its first stage and one Aeon Vac on its second stage.   
Like its outer structure, all Relativity engines are entirely 3D printed, and use liquid oxygen (LOX) and liquid natural gas (LNG).  
The launch, dubbed  "GLHF" (Good Luck, Have Fun), comes seven years after Tim Ellis, 32,  co-founded Relativity Space in a small rented office in Seattle.
The test flight was classed as a “successful failure” as Terran 1 fell short of reaching orbit - but launched flawlessly and made it through Max Q, the most dangerous and turbulent point of its ascent.
In a tweeted statement, Relativity Space said: “Today’s launch proved Relativity’s 3D-printed rocket technologies that will enable our next vehicle, Terran R. We successfully made it through Max-Q, the highest stress state on our printed structures. This is the biggest proof point for our novel additive manufacturing approach. Today is a huge win, with many historic firsts. We also progressed through Main Engine Cutoff and Stage Separation. We will assess flight data and provide public updates over the coming days.”
Ellis tweeted: “Stunning and visceral first launch, what a first to witness.”
Ellis founded Relativity with fellow rocket engineer Jordan Noone. The pair use 3D printing techniques, artificial intelligence and autonomous robots to build their vehicles. They design their rockets are designed by computer and shaped by Stargate, the largest 3D metal printers in the world.
From humble beginnings, such as a pledge from billionaire Mark Cuban of $500,000 in start-up money in 2016, Relativity Space has grown to

    Several countries – including Russia, India, and China – have announced plans for new space launches to the moon. Nearly 50 years after the first moon landing, NASA, along with other nations are now preparing to not only return to the moon, but ultimately launch missions to Mars and beyond.  

    In this episode, co-host Darrell West is joined by Tom Colvin, a senior policy advisor in the Office of Technology, Policy, and Strategy (OTPS) at NASA. Together, they discuss the implications of new lunar landings for the future of space exploration.  

    Listen to the episode and more from the TechTank podcast on Apple, Spotify, or Acast.