The Aqualunar Challenge, a collaborative initiative between the UK and Canada, has been launched with the aim of developing technologies for purifying water on the Moon. The challenge, which is funded by the UK Space Agency’s International Bilateral Fund and managed by Challenge Works, will support UK-led start-ups in developing methods to purify ice found beneath the Moon’s surface. This initiative reflects the growing focus on making human habitation on the lunar surface a viable reality.
A recent study by Opinium revealed that 62% of UK adults believe space technologies should have Earth applications, with 56% emphasizing that space technology enhances our understanding and protection of our planet. Andrew Griffith MP, the Minister for Space, highlighted the UK’s role in nurturing innovation and stated that by backing UK start-ups to develop innovative technologies, long-term missions on the Moon may be possible. This aligns with the objectives of the NASA-led Artemis Missions, in which the UK is actively participating, aiming to establish a permanent crewed base on the Moon by the end of the decade.
The CEO of the UK Space Agency, Paul Bate, noted that technologies developed for space exploration have a successful history of finding new uses on Earth. The focus of the Aqualunar Challenge on purifying lunar ice has potential benefits for addressing pressing issues on Earth, such as water scarcity and environmental sustainability.
Holly Jamieson, Executive Director at Challenge Works, explained the critical needs for lunar survival, including the need for water to drink, grow food, and produce oxygen and fuel. The Aqualunar Challenge invites innovators from diverse backgrounds to contribute their ideas and solutions.
The challenge also aligns with public opinion on lunar sustainability and international cooperation in space exploration. According to the Opinium study, 78% of participants emphasized the importance of using the Moon’s resources responsibly, and 79% believed that no single country should claim exclusive rights to lunar water. The principles of the Artemis Accords, which the UK has endorsed, promote responsible and sustainable lunar activities.
The Aqualunar Challenge will progress in phases, with the ten most promising UK-led teams receiving GBP30k each in seed funding in June 2024. By March 2025, three teams will emerge as winners and share an additional GBP300k to further their technological advancements. The challenge is open to international collaboration, highlighting the global nature of space exploration and its benefits.