The value of planetary scientists in NewSpace

When I started my PhD I was expecting to develop a career in academia. To be honest, it didn’t seem to be many other options out there for a Doctor in Lunar Geology. As my PhD years were going by, I met more and more business people and engineers involved in what is called NewSpace, specifically lunar resource exploration companies. Most of those entrepreneurs, CEOs, and business developers I’ve met were people with admirable visions but it shocked me how many of them lacked of basic understanding of the lunar environment and its resources to make their businesses minimally realistic.

As a geologist, I was trained to work with the private industry. There is no oil, mining, civil engineering or construction company that does not have geologists playing fundamental roles. Why should resource exploration companies be different?

It’s not a secret that I was hired by ispace not many months after handing my PhD final thesis. I was, to my knowledge, the first lunar geologist hired full-time by one of these companies. Without any precedent, we had to came up with what should be my responsibilities and my everyday duties. Needless to say that for me it was very important to prove that there was a place for planetary geologists in NewSpace.

I doubt that there is anybody who knows more about the lunar environment, resources and surface than a lunar scientist. A good understanding of these three aspects of the Moon are critical for the success of your mission. A planetary scientist could contribute to the definition of the objectives, the payload and the landing areas of your mission, maximizing your exploration results and minimizing the risks.

Planetary researchers have, as any other professional group, their own jargon and expectations that could be similar or completely opposite to those of your company. Having a scientist will help you to translate that latest research article into plain language. A question that I’m always asked at the office when a new lunar article comes up is “Could you explain us this article and the implications that this new discovery could have for us?”

I also encountered many researchers with questions and concerns in certain aspects of NewSpace companies. This distrust is mainly caused by not considering scientists in the company’s communication strategy. Having a purely business pitch in a scientific space resources conference could be counterproductive if the speaker doesn’t have basic knowledge of the science and doesn’t take into account the characteristics of the audience.

Adding the perspective of a planetary scientist will also help you to identify needs that your company could solve and turn it into a profitable business area. Being a scientist requires skills such as observation, problem identification, creativity, proposal writing, and many others that are in demand when you want to develop an innovative business.

There are many ways how a planetary scientist could add value to a NewSpace company and there are many of them looking to get into the space resource industry. If you are interested in meeting some, I’d love to introduce you.