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Artemis Project and the Lunar Resources Company (LRC)

Back in the mid-1990s, Mr. Gregory Bennett started the open source internet-based Artemis Society as a nonprofit organization to promote lunar development, called The Artemis Project (Artemis being the twin sister of Apollo in old Greek mythology). Secondly, he started the for-profit Lunar Resources Company to do the same.

Greg Bennett has a long history working for NASA, and for a time working for Bigelow Aerospace during its early years, before returning to government work.

The Artemis Society and the Lunar Resources Company were volunteer based, and after their initial flurry of activity, died down and have been mostly dormant since around 1999, more or less. The ASI website is still its 1990s version, more or less, and visitors are now referred to the Moon Society.

When I was in communication with ASI and some of its members in the mid-1990s, and analyzed their approach. Their private (non-governmental) attempt to fund a lunar mission relied heavily on a sales pitch directed at the individual -- offering to take you there as a tourist. In addition, they attempted branding and commercialism of associated products. It was all volunteer based as far as I know.

Within the Artemis site is an outline of a Reference Mission, which is incomplete but has much interesting information and is a pretty good design mission compared to what else you might be able to find on the web at this time.

Their estimate of the total cost of an ambitious first mission was US$ 1.5 billion, with total revenues estimated at $4.5 billion and include revenues from TV coverage, motion pictures of the mission, product endorsements, royalties (e.g., their name used with toys, video games), merchandising of lunar samples, and scientific data. At least it's an initial analysis... These entrepreneurs welcome inputs of every kind, both critical and useful.

There's also the Artemis Society International. I find it all confusing, so I'll just quote verbatim from Bennett (from the 1990s): "The Artemis Project is a program, not a company or an organization… [R]ight now LRC's role in the Artemis Project is primarily as an incubator for businesses, and as the licensing agent for the copyrighted and trademarked material. (That's why "The Artemis Project" is a trademark of The Lunar Resources Company … The folks who started the whole thing formed LRC to hold the intellectual property.)" Also, " the organization that maintains the Artemis Project website [is] Artemis Society International, a non-profit educational and scientific foundation incorporated in Alabama with members and local chapters in every English-speaking country in the world. ASI serves as the educational wing, meeting ground, and think tank for the Artemis Project. LRC is also one of the many sponsors of Artemis Society International." Also listed as sponsors of the Artemis Project are the separate entities Artemis Magazine, LRC Publications, LRC Simulations, LRC Software, and LRC Space Flight Company, in addition to various outside organizations and companies.

Artemis appears to be a legal nonprofit glove on a commercial company.

The main people with technical credentials at that time were Gregory Bennett, who has over 25 years aerospace experience, both detailed technical and management in the field of manned spacecraft, and Boise Pearson, a veteran spacecraft designer of thermal and propulsion systems. The other founders are published SF writers who could probably design a good movie and royalty items. Most of the active people are not professionals in the space community. They have a list of Advisors and technical committee chairmen from the professional ranks, but I don't see much activity on their part besides using their name.

Artemis initially had a strong bias towards the Moon with considerable resistance to the concept of asteroidal resources utilization, indeed criticism of the latter like it was a competitor, but that eventually seemed to be changing.

Their web links also appeared to be evolving beyond the initial narrow focus on their sponsors, and there was an effort to improve the quality of the published submissions of material by more careful filtering.

I thought that they had not sufficiently considered how asteroidal resources make a lunar base more economical and can significantly enhance available resources for the lunar base, in a synergistic way. I would also caution people about searching for "the critical path" because there is instead a potentially diverse marketplace up there which several entities will develop in different ways. There won't be one company that opens up space a particular way agreed upon by all authorities. There will be several players working together synergistically. For example, there are things the Moon just doesn't have in sufficient quantities and which are needed, but which are abundant in asteroids. Yet some of their pages talked about importing it from Earth instead of asteroids.

Over time, I believed the Artemis people would be coming to see valuable applications of asteroids, as there has been increased interest in them, both to support their lunar mission and for secondary application of some of the things they are developing for their lunar mission. Keep this in mind as we watch Artemis evolve.

Some of my comments from the 1990s on their site:

  • It tends to be fragmented due to relying on the submission of documents from diverse sources. There's good stuff there if you keep digging around, but there are also some questionable submissions.
  • Bennett was initially approving most things, which is good because he's of higher technical competance than most of his volunteers and there needs to be a good peer review process, but he is also short on time and gets far, far behind. Also, his own philosophy bears out to considerable extent…
  • Artemis is largely an internet experiment and a network of people, not a company in an office building. The vast majority of Artemis resources and activities are on the internet, and the volunteers are spread out all over the world. It's an experiment that most of us who have a website can learn from. Artemis has carefully set up an organizational structure to efficiently handle inputs from diverse sources, both technically and administratively. It will be interesting to see how the content progresses in this "software solution" to content needs. I'm skeptical but I hope I'm wrong and it flies well.
  • Anyone can join and participate in a workgroup by linking into the Artemis Data Book outline and navigating around. Indeed, you can get a long list of participants and their e-mail addresses, which is what I did, contacting many of them and corresponding with a few of them, though most of the responses were that they are no longer involved (and usually had contributed nothing in the first place). Thus there is a false first impression of participation -- there are many people listed as members of workgroups but only a few people are "active". Most had not even logged in for many, many months. (With PERMANENT, too, most web surfing volunteers are enthusiastic only "at the moment" and rarely follow thru.) Few listed Artemis people have technical experience or are intimately familiar with the literature on space industrialization using lunar materials. Nonetheless, there is Geoffrey Landis, a leading researcher and highly respected person who submitted several articles to the Artemis Data Book. A few other technical people are not familiar with the literature but have good things to contribute. There are also competant technical people who have submitted just a little.
  • Work on the Artemis site appears to have started with a bang in the 1995-96 time frame, then died out for almost a year, then picked up significantly in late 1997 and early 1998.

The strengths of the Artemis site speak for themselves on the webpage. Besides the remaining nitty critiques on my behalf, I must emphasize that in general, the Artemis website and administrative organization is well done, making it one of the premier organizational websites on privately funded space resources utilization [in the mid to late 1990s].

They're a good group of individuals to network with. I just think they're going to learn that while software solutions are important, the success (or lack thereof) of Artemis will be due to human factors from the top down.

Postscript in 2012: The ASI website has been pretty dormant for the most part since the 1990s, and they now provide a link to the Moon Society, which stays active. That's a good linkage both ways.

External links:

The Moon Society

Artemis Society website > Law, Governments, and Private Sector > Space Advocacy Organizations > Artemis Society

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