What is the most innovative and sustainable way to approach space research, education, and commerce beyond low Earth orbit? Those were the themes of the recent International Lunar Research Park (ILRP) Leader's Summit, which I had the privilege of attending thanks to generous support provided by the Silicon Valley Space Club and State of Hawaii. While last year's meeting dealt with identifying the "what", this year's meeting focused on the "how" aspects of those themes in the context of a research park. Developed first as a terrestrial prototype in Hawaii, this research park could later expand to the Moon. You can learn all about the concept on the ILRP website, the April 2011 ILRP Exploratory Workshop website, or Bruce Pittman's Fall 2011 Ad Astra article titled "Been There...Never Done This!".

Ever since Obama quipped, "We've been there before" in reference to the Moon during his April 2010 speech cancelling the NASA Constellation Program, the lunar research and exploration community has been scrambling to erase the notion that the Moon is a 'been there, done that' kind of world. It's no secret that I'm a big fan of getting humans to Mars as soon as possible and perhaps even eventually terraforming it, but ever since I attended the Lunar Science Forum last year I've gained a greater appreciation for the added value of a more integrated exploration strategy involving both the Moon and Mars. While this reasonable idea is favored by many, it is not currently in political favor, and therefore NASA suffers from having an unclear direction. Addressing this concern, "The 'Moon' is not a 4-letter word," became one of the most memorable mantras for the ILRP summit (kudos to Bob Richards for thinking of it).

Frank Schowengerdt kicked off the summit with an overview of the ILRP concept as an international public-private research park consortium based in Hilo, Hawaii utilizing the PICSES field site on the flank of Mauna Kea.  Over a period of years, this would lead to a lunar "robotic village" and a permanent human outpost on the Moon. Benefits would be many and include STEM education, commercial opportunities, high tech jobs, resource/energy conservation technology spin-offs, etc.

"The ILRP could become the largest peaceful, cooperative international endeavor in the history of the world." -- Dr. Frank Schowengerdt

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