He leaves the conference room of the 4and Space Resources Week almost fell into the dark. Stops briefly at the Redwire booth to exchange a joke with his two reps. The gray-bearded face, the one who left his Lego robots and booth to his (still) finance director, Josh Izenberg, is a space adventurer spotted in Luxembourg nearly 10 years ago.
In another life. He wrote his own legend. Born in London in 1968, he is said to have contracted the space bug reading the famous essay by the Anglican clergyman Thomas Maltus in 1798. From the “Essay on the Principle of Population”, according to which the planet will not cope with the needs of more and more men, the entrepreneur would have concluded that it was better to hasten to conquer space to find solutions.
From Silicon Valley to the USSR
His journey has always taken him to all playgrounds and industries: As president of the AspireSpace Rocketry Foundation, he sent his first machines, if not into space, then into the sky; a software developer like Elon Musk in Silicon Valley, he envisions some kind of technology that brings together all the information needed for a mission to give it all the context it needs; leading a team specializing in the use of bacteria, he learned all about mining. Insatiably curious, he builds up knowledge in construction, transport, logistics and finance; in the 1990s he worked in the dying Soviet Union building bridges between actors from the West and actors from the East; at Surrey Satellite Technology until 2004 he finally learns all about space and starts helping countries dreaming of a destination in space.
This is where his career started. At this time. The jack of all trades joins Lieutenant Colonel Dale Tietz and Dr. Bill Stone, who in the late 1990s understood that there was water on the moon and that the topic of fuel would become an important topic. The two men didn’t speak to anyone about it until 2007, when Mr. Stone shared the stage with a man named Richard Branson to talk about space tourism. The Shackleton Energy Company starts with Keravala and an ambition: to create the first offshore platform capable of bringing thousands of gallons of water as fuel for future rockets… before 2020.
The adventure ends three years later, for him anyway, when a participatory fundraiser that would raise $1.2 million… ends with promises of $6,000.
Intelligent robots that are constantly learning
Jim Keravala revives with another idea: OffWorld or how robots can give intelligence and autonomy to send them into space to prepare for the arrival of humans. Very soon, his journey allows him to understand that these robots can already be very useful on Earth.
“Look!” This Tuesday, he pointed to a screen in Luxembourg on which the images were broadcast in a loop of the world’s first robot not led by a human, but completely autonomous. In a South African mine, the Digger Bot digs into the rock and replaces itself when the rock is too hard. “It works for a quarter of the usual price,” he says passionately. No bad luck, no employee to keep an eye on things, no risk for mining employees, no vacation, rest or damage.
“It ticks all the boxes of mining,” he explains. Mining, construction, infrastructure, airport, space: the robots are not only modular, equipped with artificial intelligence, but cohort learn from each other. Seen from Earth, it’s more impressive than most sci-fi movies or the dogs of Boston Dynamics. Viewed from the moon, this would solve a fundamental problem: how to create an infrastructure from the materials on the moon, knowing it would cost a fortune to get them there.
“Since the company was founded, we raised a first round last year and this year we are preparing a bigger fundraising effort,” explains Mr. Keravala out. “But we grow from our turnover. Today we are working on three axes for space, with the Luxembourg space agency for the exploration of the moon, with Deep Space for a constellation and we have just signed a contract p
By the end of the year, the space startup, one of the sponsors of the Luxembourg conference, will grow from 70 to 150 people. In Luxembourg, where she arrived in 2017 and where he had promised a robotics research center in 2019 – “the Covid has slowed us down”, he apologizes – she should really start operations in the third quarter. Robotics-as-a-service. Offworld will continue to store mounds of data and power its artificial intelligence. In the service of a future in the moon. He’s been dreaming about it for over 30 years. He will probably talk about it Wednesday at 11:30 am.