Empowering the Freelance Economy

Is there a future for freelancers on the moon?

Photo by Murat Esibatir via Pexels
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The UK Space Agency has announced over £50 million for UK companies to develop communication and navigation services for missions to the Moon. There will be hundreds of moon missions over the next decade. If you haven’t heard of the “lunar economy” before now, then you’re just in time. Reports are indicating job growth in this sector will be out of this world.

  • The UK committed £207 million to European Space Agency (ESA) telecommunications programmes during the Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris in November 2022. The £51 million announced on 23 February 2023 for Moonlight is part of that commitment.
  • The UK space and satellite sector employs 47,000 people across the country and is set to grow with increased government support.
  • The lunar economy will generate billions of pounds for the UK economy and thousands of jobs.
  • That Chichester-born ESA astronaut Tim Peake is now a space ambassador and official space and STEM “recruiter” for the agency and united space missions.
  • ESA announced its latest cohort of astronauts in Paris in November 2022, including the UK’s third career astronaut Rosemary Coogan, world-first astronaut with a physical disability, John McFall and member of the ESA astronaut reserve, Meganne Christian.

With Britain’s Treasury purse strained, one would presume any missions to the Moon would be placed in the “to-do” pile to collect dust along with other Government proposals like the Employment Bill. But you’d be wrong. News of the UK taking a “leading role” in the globally-charged lunar economy comes straight from the source’s mouth.

Minister of State in the UK Department of Science, Technology and Innovation George Freeman said:

Space and satellite science and technology are at the forefront of our Science Superpower mission, which is why we have set out a 10-year Industrial Strategy for Space to attract the billions of commercial investment now coming into this sector, already worth £16.5 billion to the UK economy.

This new funding will help UK companies provide satellite services for the fast-emerging lunar communications economy for years to come, deepening our international collaborations through ESA, kick-starting the lunar economy and inspiring a new generation of scientists and explorers.

How big will the lunar economy be for the UK?

Independent research suggests more than 250 missions to the Moon are due to launch over the next decade alone, generating almost £90 billion in global economic returns and thousands of new jobs.

The recently announced funding is part of the European Space Agency’s Moonlight programme, which has plans to launch a constellation of satellites into orbit around the Moon, from 2028. This will allow future astronauts, rovers, science experiments and other equipment to communicate, share large amounts of data including high-definition video, and navigate safely across the lunar surface.

Freelance IT, data, engineers and filming experts to name but a few, might want to sign up for NASA and ESA news alerts to keep up with the space lingo.

UKspace Chair, John Hanley, said:

By investing in UK companies to develop communication and navigation services for the Moonlight Programme, the Government is not only supporting innovation and technological advancement, but delivering a critical component of the forthcoming vibrant and thriving lunar economy.

We have seen previous lunar endeavours stimulate a range of unexpected technologies and processes used to enhance life on Earth, such as in food safety protocols or reflective insulation. This Moonlight investment will contribute to the next generation of advancements in lunar exploration that will lead to further scientific discoveries and technological improvements – all of which have the potential to benefit our lives on Earth.

A new space station

NASA plans to send astronauts to the Moon in the coming years while working with ESA and other partners. The US space agency intends to put a new space station called the Gateway with living quarters for astronauts in lunar orbit. The UK space industry is making important contributions to the Gateway, including the refuelling module.

The UK government has confirmed that “companies involved in Moonlight will be able to create a telecommunication and navigation service for ESA, while being free to sell lunar services and solutions to other agencies and commercial ventures.”

With just those few nuggets of information, there looks like there will be ample project opportunities for a wide range of freelancer skills from architects, interior designers, food scientists, communications equipment specialists, PR and copywriters, medical practitioners, botanists, and mechanics.

Ok, I might be getting carried away so early in the game. But you have to admit, the future’s looking bright up there.

Do you work in the space or lunar economy? If you can offer any insights on how to navigate the recruitment process in this exciting sector please share your tips in our comments section.

Levelling-up boost for UK space sector with new growth funding – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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