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Picture of the Week: A Mysterious Development… November 25, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in Lunar Development Corporation, lunar land use planning, NASA, Picture of the Week, private sector, public-private partnership, Sherlock Holmes.

This relatively unassuming rendering caught my eye when searching for something completely different (the International Lunar Network–features coming soon on that), and it was a small detail in the image that struck me, and sent me on a magical mystery tour of the web for more info:

Up on the carrier there, the label (in this NASA rendering) says:

Lunar Development Corporation.

As a 24-year-old with an Urban Planning degree, seeing such a particular phrase on a NASA rendering really got my attention. And what I’ve found has surprised me: this ‘Lunar Development Corporation’ could not only be a massive player in our colonization of the moon, but this reference on an official NASA image has proven to be highly mysterious.

A quick search on “lunar development corporation” dug up some gold (or helium-3, if you will):

  • A detailed paper on public-private partnerships (PPP), including the concept of a singular Lunar Development Corporation (I’ll provide a full analysis of this paper as a marquee feature within the next two weeks);
  • A mildly dated (February 2007) article from Space.com on methods of solidifying public; investor; and other support for lunar plans, which it notes could (in part) be accomplished by instituting “a public-private lunar development corporation” (again, singular).

Among other things, mostly odds and ends.

This became extremely strange upon finding the original source of the image; I first encountered it via a mostly unrelated ThomasNet article. Then, after some digging based on the ThomasNet description, I found the image in the Wikipedia article on Moon Colonization.

Taking the hunt to NASA itself, a search for “lunar development corporation” on their main site turned up….nothing. Hmm. I then applied my method for finding that Wikipedia repeat of the image to NASA’s new official images site, NASAImages.org, and found the image with a full (and revealing?) description.

The archived image’s original source is this page, which has the same description alongside it.

That description is potentially very revealing, by just how unrevealing it is. Nowhere is the appearance of “Lunar Development Corporation” mentioned, as the brief text talks only about the rover and cargo lander.

A search on NASA’s site for “lunar development corporation” turns up only a brief mention of “the new Houston-based Lunar Development Corporation” being listed as founded apparently by the Artemis Society‘s Gregory Bennett (a bio which does not mention this LDC in any form), and a Google or other search turns up no official site or mention of the entity in any form..

…yet it appears on the cargo lander on this official NASA image.

This may be explained by a small detail, from the end of the image’s description:

“This image was produced for NASA by John Frassanito and Associates. Technical concepts from NASA’s Planetary Projects Office (PPO), Johnson Space Center (JSC). “

Here’s the website for John Frassanito and Associates, but a search for “Planetary Projects Office” and/or alongside “Johnson Space Center” turns up…nothing (except more concept images). NASA has a plethora of official sites for its various departments, but yet this Houston space center’s “PPO” does, apparently, not.

A little more hunting at the Johnson Space Center site turns up a reference that the PPO became the “Planetary Missions and Materials Branch”, a search for which, again, fails to turn up an official site. Searching the JSC’s site brought up more odds and ends, including a newsletter (Lunar News issue number 62) from 1998, so it looks like “Planetary Mission and Materials Branch” may have been a name that was changed again, though to what, I’m not sure.

In fact, closer inspection of the original image’s page confirms it is from 1994.

So after all that adventure, it may just be an old and outdated concept. Still, the prominence of the “Lunar Development Corporation” on the rendering (and others, it turns out), combined with the dual facts that the rendering is from “technical concepts, and the lack of mention of the Corporation in the image descriptions despite it being so readily apparent in them, suggest that “Lunar Development Corporation” was an element of the technical concepts not entirely intended to be released; e.g., an innocuous leak.

I’m going to do some further investigating, sending off some emails, and I’ll post an update in the very near future about whether the Lunar Development Corporation could be something currently being worked on (as it is featured in concept images that are alongside much more current ones in the galleries). Stay tuned… :)



1. brobof - April 22, 2009

Google LUNOX
Lovely little space program. Unfortunately….

Nick Azer - April 23, 2009

Ooo, neat to have a specific origin of all that :)

What they’re doing now is basically the same—surprisingly little has changed. Everything from the pressurized rovers, to in-situ resources (the many uses of regolith), to the number of crew and the basic design of the outpost.

Check out the Lunar Surface Systems Workshop presentations, and my coverage here of them, to see what I mean. This PDF in particular:




Interesting to see just how much of their lunar plans now were already basically groundworked back in 1993…I wonder what other similar programs might give insight to as-yet-unrevealed current NASA plans?

2. brobof - April 24, 2009

Yes and how many more PPT cycles will there be before NASA finally grinds to a halt through old age!
Mind you we’re still following Konstantin’s original Power Point (Try reading “The Call of the Cosmos”
If only the Americans had listened to O’Neill rather than the Generals in Vietnam… Alas it is probably too late for NASA, America, Space colonisation and thus Humanity. 2030.
Shameless Plug:

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