Moonshot Museum Will Inspire, Showcase the Prospects Offered by an On-the-Rise Commercial Space Industry


Sam Moore, Moonshot Museum Executive Director

This article was originally published in “Pittsburgh Region: Next is Now” from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

March 23, 2022

Despite incredible innovation and progress in space exploration over the past several decades, it’s been fifty years since America last visited the lunar surface. But that’s not to say we haven’t continued to explore space. As world orders have shifted and technology has grown smaller and nimbler, our understanding of space has increased dramatically. Hubble, the International Space Station, and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter have all launched relatively close to home here on Earth in the past thirty years, and America has explored Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and even Pluto since the last American spacecraft departed the lunar surface in 1972.

We know infinitely more about space and its potential than we did 50 years ago, and the growth of the commercial space industry is poised to fuel even greater discovery in the months and years to come. This year, in 2022, Pittsburgh is poised to return America to the Moon when Astrobotic’s Peregrine spacecraft touches down on the lunar surface. Guided from Mission Control Pittsburgh, Peregrine will not just be the first American spacecraft to land on the Moon in decades, but the first commercial spacecraft to ever explore the lunar surface – an exclusive club whose membership until now has only included national space agencies like NASA.

A Mission of Career and Community Readiness for 21st Century Space Industry

But Peregrine’s launch and landing won’t be the only history-making space event in 2022. Back here on Earth, Moonshot Museum will open as the first museum on the planet with a mission focused on career and community readiness for the 21st century space industry, pulling back the curtain on contemporary space exploration via an unprecedented partnership between an education-centered nonprofit and a commercial space company. In an industry largely defined from the outside by far-away destinations and top-secret technologies, visitors to Moonshot Museum will have, quite literally, a window into the real-time work of space thanks to the Museum’s unique location inside the headquarters of Astrobotic. A wall of windows in the Museum will look into Astrobotic’s clean room workshop where spacecraft are assembled, providing an anytime view of lunar landers, rovers, and scientific instruments destined for the lunar surface. Beyond the windows, an immersive lunar-themed environment will serve as the backdrop for innovative and accessible programming, powered by human creativity and delivered via cutting-edge exhibitions. As much a living laboratory as a museum, Moonshot Museum will take its visitors on simulated lunar missions. Designed with a middle and high school audience in mind, visitors will be tasked with solving problems based on challenges faced by real space industry professionals every day and encounter real career opportunities in the space that span the full “STEAM” spectrum of science, technology, engineering, and the arts and humanities.

Taking Full Advantage of Rising Tide of the Commercial Space Industry

Moonshot Museum’s mission is to inspire a new generation to find their place in the future of space exploration and take full advantage of the rising tide of the commercial space industry. Today, in 2022, the global space industry is valued at approximately $450 billion. And by the end of this decade, that same industry is projected to grow to more than $1 trillion. (That’s trillion, with a T.) Truly, the opportunity for young people and communities in Pittsburgh and beyond can’t be overstated, and those opportunities extend far beyond astronauts and aerospace engineering. Certainly, the need for mechanical, electrical, systems and software engineers has never been greater, and astronauts will always be central to human space exploration. But more than ever, the trades, arts and humanities are needed to move space exploration forward. From data visualization to writing, graphic design and marketing, the role of artists and creative critical thinkers is needed to bring brilliant ideas to life, inspire public support, craft sound policy and keep projects on track. (As a two-time history major who now writes and speaks about the space industry for living, let me serve as an example!) Likewise, opportunities abound and will continue to grow for highly skilled technicians, machinists and tradespeople to literally have their hands on spacecraft and the future of space exploration. Moonshot Museum’s mission of inspiration powers our core focus on making connections for our visitors, who will not only get an unparalleled front-row seat to the work of space but will leave knowing exactly how their own personal interests and passions connect to that work.

Space is Providing Solutions for Global Connectivity

Visitors will also experience just how much lunar and wider space exploration impacts life here on Earth. In some obvious ways, space plays a central role in the GPS-linked devices all of us have in our pockets, which on a larger scale impact global supply chains, food supplies and worldwide commerce. Space is providing solutions for global connectivity, with constellations of satellites providing reliable, accessible internet across every corner of the globe. Space is equipping us to develop new medical treatments, grow hardier plants and increase our understanding of global climate change. And space can hold the answers to the enormous challenges facing our one perfect blue planet as humanity’s need for natural resources and precious metals continues to grow.

We’ll have these conversations and so many more at Moonshot Museum when we open this fall, against an out-of-this-world backdrop of the work happening at Astrobotic. Our mission is centered in Pittsburgh, but relevant to the world. As a cultural tourism asset, Moonshot Museum will share the opportunity of space exploration with visitors from across the globe, centering Pittsburgh and the wider “Space Belt” region as a hub for space innovation and opportunity. As a hub for innovative STEAM education, we’ll send thousands of students and general visitors on inspiring missions focused on everything from lunar settlements to escape room-style Moon mysteries, to space company entrepreneurship. And as an access point for our community, we’re committed to working with space, technology, education and adjacent industry partners to create an ecosystem that nurtures interest in space and maps out clear pathways and career opportunities for learners of all ages.

Pittsburgh is going to the Moon in 2022. Won’t you join us?

This article was originally published in “Pittsburgh Region: Next is Now” from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.