Emerging from many discussions currently underway is a vision for the creation of a “Moon Village” after the ISS-end-of-life. The Moon Village will be an international and permanent Moon facility for human and robotic exploration and with different countries, organisations and partners participating with their experiments, technologies, and overall interest. While this process will take decades, the next few years will be crucial to create the foundations for Lunar development. An unprecedented level of international collaboration needs to be forged to achieve this goal. No single country has the financial resources or R&D capacity to develop the infrastructure required or to create the markets needed to profitably utilize resources derived from the Moon.
But how do we establish this strategic, international consortium to bring the Moon Village into life? Complex system innovations like the Moon Village initiative often encounter stiff resistance from intended beneficiaries and stakeholders, because they disrupt existing behaviors, organisational structures and business models. The decision to create a Moon Village will require long-term political and financial commitments that could define the character of national space activities for decades. With so much at stake, the decision making process might be more conflictual and uncertain than expected.
For that reason we advocate that is crucial to approach this large-scale change as two simultaneous and parallel design challenges—the design of the artifact in question (the Moon village infrastructure and its key technical elements) and the design of the intervention that brings it to life (the international Moon Village alliance, the endorsement of the concept by ESA’s ministerial conference, and the global movement of Moon Village leaders and supporters). We believe that so far, much of the effort is focused on the engineering artifact and less on the intervention design that is needed to ensure acceptance of the Moon Village concept by its stakeholders. Prof. Jan Wörner, Director General of the European Space Agency, recently said in one of his interviews: “There are people trying to convince me already about the Moon Village architecture of the facility. For me, the more important thing is that we together decide on a global, international scheme.”
In this paper, we’ll explain this new challenge that the European Space Agency is facing and demonstrate how Design Thinking can help to bring the Moon Village vision to life. In fact, we’d argue that with very complex artifacts like the Moon Village, the design of their “intervention”—their introduction and integration into the status quo and the acceptance by the stakeholders—is even more critical to success than the design of the artifacts themselves. We believe that Human Centered Design principles have the potential to be powerful when applied to managing the intangible challenges involved in getting people to engage with and adopt innovative new ideas and visions for space exploration.