Speaker Interview: Dr. Alain Berinstain, Vice President of Global Development, Moon Express

AlainSpace Tech Expo is only a few months away and we would like to introduce you to some of the Speakers joining in the Conference. This week we caught up with with Dr. Alain Berinstain from Moon Express, a commercial organization working on Moon expeditions.

In his role at Moon Express, Alain oversees the international growth of the company’s strategic business interests and leads engagement with global space agencies on science and exploration initiatives. Prior to joining the lunar exploration company, Alain was director of policy for Canada’s minister of transport. Earlier in his career, Alain spent 17 years with the Canadian Space Agency where he held positions including director of planetary exploration and space astronomy, and director of science and academic development.

Alain will be speaking on the 'Exploration Tech Roadmap: Delving into Advanced Transportation Vehicle Technology Requirements and Innovations' session on Thursday May 24 at the Space Tech Conference 2018.

What would you say are the key challenges and opportunities in the space industry at present?

There is a real paradigm shift happening in the commercial space sector. The cost of access to space is dramatically decreasing and governments are embracing partnerships with commercial space, shifting some roles from public to private. It will be a challenge to ensure that all members of the space community keep up with the fast pace of change as it will lead to more access to space – cheaper and with more frequency than ever before.


NASA recently announced in its FY 2019 budget that the commercialization of low-Earth orbit (LEO) and an increased effort to return to the Moon will be part of the agency’s focus for years to come. What does this mean for Moon Express and how did you react to this news?

We are happy to see America's return to the Moon supported by the President's budget request, with an increased NASA budget leveraging the capabilities of the commercial space sector. NASA public-private partnerships such as the Lunar CATALYST program have helped Moon Express and others advance US robotic lander capabilities for lunar exploration. We look forward to our continuing partnership with NASA to return to the lunar surface and beyond for science, commerce, and the growth of the nation's space economy.


Moon Express is currently working on the Lunar Scout MX-1, Lunar Outpost MX-3, and the Harvest Moon expeditions. What will these three future missions look like?

The Moon Express MX family of flexible, scalable robotic explorers can reach the Moon and other solar system destinations from Earth orbit. The MX spacecraft architecture supports multiple applications, including delivery of scientific and commercial payloads to the Moon at low cost using a ride-share model, or charter to science expeditions to distant worlds.

quoteOur MX family of robotic explorers is configurable to a wide variety of available and emerging launch systems, all designed to collapse the cost of deep space access beyond Earth orbit.

The Lunar Scout expedition will be the first commercial voyage to the Moon. This historic expedition will demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of entrepreneurial approaches to space exploration, carrying a diverse manifest of payloads including the International Lunar Observatory, MoonLight, by the INFN National Laboratories of Frascati and the University of Maryland, and a Celestis memorial flight.

The Lunar Outpost expedition will enable the first commercial presence and exploration of the lunar South Pole. The poles of the Moon have concentrations of water and other valuable resources, as well as “peaks of eternal light” where permanent sunshine and direct continuous communication with Earth is possible. The primary goals of this mission are to set up the first lunar research outpost, prospect for water and useful minerals, and accommodate a variety of research instruments for our expedition partners.

The Harvest Moon expedition includes the first commercial sample return mission, which also begins the business phase of lunar resource prospecting. The lunar samples brought back will be the only privately owned Moon materials on Earth, and will be used to benefit science as well as commercial purposes.


How does the termination of the Google Lunar XPRIZE impact Moon Express and the future of commercial expedition missions?

Over the years, the Google Lunar XPRIZE has been a clear and present opportunity that has inspired and incentivized new investments, customer commitments, entrepreneurial efforts, and public engagement around the world toward a new era of lunar exploration and discovery.

For Moon Express, the competition was a sweetener in the landscape of our business case, but it's never been the business case itself. We continue to focus on our core business plans of collapsing the cost of access to the Moon, our partnership with NASA, and our long-term vision of unlocking lunar resources for the benefit of life on Earth and our future in space.


In terms of industry news, what development, announcement, or otherwise has stood out most to you in the past year?

It feels like the “one step forward, two steps back” of commercial space is now speeding up and we are progressing “two steps forward, carefully”. 

Recently, while watching a night launch of the Falcon 9 from my new backyard in Florida with my family, including the landing of the recovered first stage, this stood out for me personally – I felt like I was witnessing the success of commercial space, while at the same time, starting my own new career pivot into commercial space with Moon Express.

Don't miss Dr. Alain Berinstain speaking on the 'Exploration Tech Roadmap: Delving into Advanced Transportation Vehicle Technology Requirements and Innovations' session on Thursday May 24 at the Space Tech Conference 2018.